Smile Pinki

I recently saw a remarkable short documentary entitled Smile Pinki. It tells the story of two poverty-stricken young children (one a girl named Pinki) in India who are born with clefts and have the opportunity to receive free surgery to fix their condition. It is incredibly moving. I’m not the only one who feels that way — the movie is getting a lot of attention.

I watched it with my children. They’ve never seen anyone with a cleft, because in the United States, every baby born with the condition gets surgery within a few months. Only one of my four children (Nicholas) expressed the revulsion that many adults feel when seeing children with clefts. The other three were transfixed by what they saw and watched from beginning to end. If they hadn’t been paying so much attention to the screen, they would have had the chance to see something they have never seen before: tears coming from their dad’s eyes.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find so much as a trailer online, or any way that a person could buy or rent it. Do any blog readers know how someone could watch the documentary at home?


This link may be a trailer for the movie. Linked from the homepage.

(I don't have the update to date web browser to view it but the description looked promising)


I cannot find anything. Nothing on Netflix, or anything of the sort.

Martin Richard

I remember seeing a baby, of about four months, in his carrier. He had a cleft. I felt the start of the revulsion you acknowledge, and clamped it down almost instantly, and paid attention to the baby and got him to smile and wriggle with delight. What I remember as well is reaction of the parents. They were tense, holding their breath, which they let out with an audible sigh. It was as though they smiled with their entire bodies, when their child was not reviled, was treated and respected as a human being, and not a monster.

Our culture discards the different much too readily, and we react with horror when confronted with a being from the outer edges of humanity.


Here's the website about the film...

You can always request that they add you to their email list and inform you when they are going to appear at film festivals. Many film festivals will show trailers on their site but that depends if one has been made.


Movie website


go for the torrents, or solve the problem at

randy --


The power of the documentaries/movies to feelings are so immense - it's incredible. For exmaple a documentary of children in Africa (or any developing nations), suffuring from all kinds of diseases, the lives they have, where their parents are working in a sweatshop (or similar terrible condition factories) with few/mini wages to feed/support the family. To those in a developed nations (priviledged ones) will be very touched. However it's our countries (rich devloped nations) that take advantages of these countries. Though from an economic point of view, with the idea of a free-market system, it is natural thing - ie, use any methods that will get profit... We are irrational creates that care about others, with hearts - hence, promotion of such documentaries ("educational") are necessary for the future - to save our brothers and sisters.


With the notes above, there is a showing at the San Rafael film center on Jan 8th - maybe as that date approaches you can ask the theater ...


Dear Martin Richard:

A child with a cleft is at "the outer edges of humanity"? How narrow is your definition of humanity anyway?


I know several families whose children have had corrective surgery for cleft lip; two of these children were adopted, had had initial surgery in their birth country and further surgery in the U.S. My own adopted daughter had free heart surgery in the country of her birth. Of course no surgery is entirely "free," even if a surgeon is donating his or her services. Hats off to Randy for mentioning "Smile Train."


I am the mother of a 2-year-old boy who was born with a cleft (lip only) that was repaired when he was 3 months old. Thanks for pointing out this documentary, and if you ever come across a trailer or more news of the release of the movie, please let your readers know.

On another note, might I suggest, as a Christmas gift for a friend or family member who already has too much stuff, the donation in his or her name of surgery for one of these needy kids?

Martin Richard

A response to LIDoc--

As Mr Levitt notes, children with clefts are seldom seen in the US. Here, we discard the different, hide our elderly in homes, and define humanity by that narrow experience of its range.

I grew up with a severely retarded sister. For me and my several siblings, Jane became, in our adulthood, a litmus test of the tolerance of those new to our family. Those who accepted Jane were accepted by us. Those who were repulsed were welcome to stay away.

My point, perhaps poorly expressed, is that children with clefts are firmly included in humanity, though they may be from the edges of our experience. I learned from my sister a very broad and embracing definition of humanity, Doc, which includes even the occasional Republican.


Politics aside, the best "out of the shadows" moment for kids who've had cleft palate repair had to be Bridget McCain smiling with her family on the cover of People magazine.,,7566080922,00.html


Awesome documentaries are made every year, and sink without a trace. It's a tough field to work in. Here's an amazing one on child labor in Third World countries:


I'm not exactly the crying type of personality but the movie Juno made me cry.


Dear LIDoc,

What Martin Richard is saying is true, and I think you know that. I have Tourettes Syndrome. I NEVER talk about it. In fact, this is the first time ever that I've spoken about it online.
As a child my involuntary tics were terrible. I was a normal kid in every other respect. However, since my tics were so foreign to the other children in my school, I was the recipient of odd looks and a certain level of alienation. It bothered me because I couldn't understand why I was THAT MUCH different. That's because the syndrome was in my experience and not theirs. Thankfully years and education have enlightened me and allowed me to look at that period of my life from outside the box. It was not that I was out of humanity, I was very much in it, but responses I recieved to my tics from children was a normal (albeit unfortunate) product of our societal upbringing; If it isn't part of your normal life, it's foreign and weird.

Thank you education, for allowing us to look at how we look at things and people we look at.


Sara Anderson

Thanks for calling attention to the subject of clefts and the difference reconstructive surgery can make. It opens up a lifetime of educational and economic opportunities for those with clefts, as well as those with disabling burns and hand injuries. For more videos, go to and be inspired!


Have you seen this ? Pinki was sick with high fevers. The family has no money for treatment.

The story is from November. No news since then.

Terra Weikel

I'm a friend of the filmmaker, and happy to report that Pinki is doing great!

The doctor profiled in the documentary heard Pinki was sick and brought her to the hospital where she was treated for malaria and fully recovered. The hospital team recently donated hundreds of books to the village for a lending library and Pinki is its young librarian. At the library inauguration, they showed the film to a crowd of nearly 1,000 people from the surrounding area. Most excitingly, Pinki being in the movie caught the attention of local development officials who are working on a water pump, sanitation and housing for the village.

The film was nominated for an Oscar today and you can find out more at:

The terrific work profiled in the film is part of the Smile Train.


Thank you for taking the time to write this Steven. I have 2 sons who were both born with clefts. When my boys were newborns, I would heard all sorts of comments from people. One woman in the grocery store said to me "kids aren't born with that much these days are they". The truth is, clefts are still incredibly common (according to the CDC, orofacial clefts are the most common birth defect), but like you said the majority of them are fixed at such an early age, it is very rare you come across a baby with an unrepaired cleft lip and/or palate.

Having gone through it twice with both of my boys, I guess the only thing I suggest, is that if one were to come across a baby with an open cleft lip, don't be afraid to talk to that mother or father. A lot of times I would find that people didn't know what to say and would walk away dumbfounded or speechless. If you don't know what to say, it doesn't hurt to ask a question. I really appreciated those that took the time to just find out a little more about the cleft. Those that were willing to learn.

It was empowering to me as a mother to share my newborns with others during that brief window where they still had their "widesmile", and educate those around us on the basics of clefts. I really appreciated those that took the time to hear about what it all really entailed in terms of feeding, speech, and surgeries.

I have a little blog that I started in hopes of educating others on clefts: It is nothing fancy, but just an attempt to reach out.

Once again, thanks for writing on this topic. I wish I could see this movie! The trailer brought me to tears!