Sedona International Film Festival presents ‘Marathon Boy’ in documentary series Aug. 23

"Marathon Boy" presented by Sedona International Film Festival in Sedona, arizona

Powerful, acclaimed film makes its Arizona premiere in Sedona; an unforgettable hero’s journey that rivals any dramatic thriller

A coach and a slum boy are united by a dream and divided by the world in the powerful, award-winning new documentary “Marathon Boy” which makes its Arizona premiere in Sedona on Tuesday, Aug. 23. The Sedona International Film Festival presents this special engagement as the fourth film in its “Docs That Make a Difference” series. There will be two screenings of the film at 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. at Harkins Sedona Six Theatres.

Critics and audiences agree that “Marathon Boy” is one of the top documentaries of the year. Variety Magazine calls the film “epic, artistic and even archetypal”. The Hollywood Reporter says “Marathon Boy” is “an unforgettable documentary that rivals any thriller.”

“Marathon Boy” is the dynamic epic story of a four-year-old boy who is plucked from the slums of India by his coach and trained to become India’s greatest runner, but what starts as a real Slumdog Millionaire turns into the stuff of film noir: a tale of greed, envy and broken dreams.

Budhia Singh’s life reads like a Bollywood movie scripted by Dickens. Born in India, next to a railway track, abused and beaten by an alcoholic father, he is sold at the age of three by his impoverished mother to a street hawker. Destined to lead a desperate existence as a beggar, Budhia is then rescued by a concerned local judo coach, who runs an orphanage for slum children.

It doesn’t take long for Budhia to reveal his remarkable talent for running. Biranchi seizes the opportunity to do something much more symbolic for India’s poor, as he has done so many times for other slum children in the judo arena. He embarks on a mission to turn Budhia into a running phenomenon.

Within six months, Budhia has run twenty half-marathons. Within a year, he has run 48 full marathons. What makes this achievement even more remarkable is that Budhia is still only four years old.

He’s become the darling of the masses, an Indian icon, and is mobbed everywhere he goes. Now Biranchi is convinced that he has the potential to become India’s greatest runner and first Olympic marathon champion.

But with the fame comes the controversies. At the end of his record-breaking 65 km run, he collapses. With the world’s eyes on them and an international storm brewing, the Indian government decides to intervene, accusing the coach of cruelty, and threatening to take his newly-adopted son into care.

Is Biranchi effectively enslaving the boy for his own gain? Has Budhia merely traded slum squalor for sporting slavery? Or is Biranchi the man who saved Budhia from a desperate future, a man who loves Budhia as his own son?

Following Budhia’s roller-coaster journey over five years, “Marathon Boy” is a Dickensian tale of greed, corruption, and broken dreams set between the heart-racing world of marathon running, the poverty-stricken slums, and the political intrigue of a modernizing India.

Nothing is what it seems in Budhia and Biranchi’s riveting story, and filmmaker Gemma Atwal continually shifts viewer identification to tell both a shocking story of opportunism and exploitation, but also a touching portrait of an authentic bond between a parent and child.

The series is made possible by a grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts and National Endowment for the Arts, the City of Sedona, and the Sedona Community Foundation.

“Marathon Boy” will be shown at Harkins Sedona Six Theatres on Tuesday, Aug. 23 at 4:00 and 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $12, or $9 for Film Festival members, and will be available starting at 3:00 p.m. that day in the Harkins lobby. Cash or checks only. Film Sedona members can purchase tickets in advance at the Sedona International Film Festival office, 2030 W. Hwy. 89A, Suite A3-4, or by calling 282-1177. For more information, visit:

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