Child of Empire – Bradford Cathedral

14th November 2022

Bradford Cathedral will host the animated virtual reality docu-drama Child of Empire this week, immersing viewers in one of the largest forced migrations in human history: the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan.

Bradford Cathedral marks Interfaith Week with the animated VR drama doc, Child of Empire telling the Partition story first-hand.

The experience – first seen at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year – will be available every day (apart from Tuesday) from 10 – 4pm, marks Interfaith Week, and is the latest event in the Cathedral’s Artspace programme.

The film takes audiences through a deeply personal perspective of this epic historical event. Two men from the Partition generation — Ishar Das Arora (voiced by Adil Hussain), an Indian Hindu who migrated from Pakistan to India, and Iqbal-ud-din Ahmed (voiced by Salman Shahid), a Pakistani Muslim who made the opposite journey — share childhood memories of their experiences while playing a board game. As the two men unpack their memories, audiences embody the experience of a 7-year-old child at key points in the migration.

Sparsh Ahuja, the film’s co-creator, said:

“75 years after their migrations, Partition remains a deeply personal experience for my two grandfathers (Ishar and Jagdish) who directly inspired this film. By highlighting the similarities of migration journeys on either side of the border, Child of Empire is a reminder that it is ordinary people that suffer the most when nationalisms are created and torn apart by political elites.

“This film is a challenge to the divisive communalism that unfortunately plagues the subcontinent today. As a child of diaspora, I have come to understand that the important stories of migration are not those of the politics that dictate it, but the people it uproots.”

The VR experience will be set up in the Cathedral’s North Transept, where visitors can use one of five VR headsets to experience Child of Empire. There will also be additional information stands and interactive maps to flesh out the story.

The Revd Ned Lunn, Bradford Cathedral’s Interim Canon Missioner and Chair of Artspace, said:

Bradford Cathedral is excited to welcome this innovative storytelling project as part of Interfaith Week. We, at the cathedral, have a proud history of inviting and promoting marginalised voices and hosting healing conversations between cultures. 

“As we look ahead to City of Culture and develop the Artspace programme to present more projects with the same boldness and creativity, we are grateful that this sets such a high precedent for all that will follow.”

A special closing event on Saturday 19th November evening will also show three short films Lost Migrations – a three-part animated anthology that explores the memory, loss, and trauma that accompanied the Partition of British India through the voices of the colonised.

For more information, click here.