In a slum in Mumbai, India, a poverty-stricken family of 10 - three couples, a single woman, and three children - lives in a small, dark shack. They are destitute because of bad government policies and their relationships are often pushed to the edge of crisis because of the lack of private space. Their lives are presented to the world through the camera lens of young filmmaker Sheetal Agarwal. Agarwal is a student at the City University of Hong Kong (CityU) and her documentary, Ordinary Lives, highlights the social, cultural, and political issues which affect the lives of ordinary people in Mumbai. Their struggle to survive is set against a backdrop of a Mumbai which is trying to become a modern city. Ordinary Lives won the Best Documentary Kodak Award at the 20th Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival Student Competition in the US in November. It was screened at the Golden Lion International Film Festival and the India International Women's Film Festival in October and December, respectively. It will also be shown at the Delray Beach Film Festival in March. Today, about half of Mumbai's population - seven million people - are living in slums. While government officials are trying to replace the slums with high-rise apartment blocks (like in Shanghai), people at the bottom of social hierarchy are treated as numbers instead of humans by various institutional surveys. 'How people are shaped by the confined living space is usually ignored. So I attempted to give voices to the subordinate and the poor by filming the daily struggles of three generations of a family crammed in a 180-square-foot shack,' Agarwal said. 'The idea came to me after I read in the newspaper that slums in Mumbai were being torn down. I wanted to capture the process. I was immediately intrigued when I met the family.' Agarwal 30, came to Hong Kong from India two years ago. She graduated with a first-class degree in commerce from KC College in Mumbai and a diploma in commercial art from Nirmala Niketan College, also in Mumbai. She has just earned a master's degree in fine arts from CityU's School of Creative Media. It took her a year to complete the documentary, during which she stayed with the family on and off over a period of two months. Sometimes she visited the family alone or with a friend who helped with lighting and filming. Agarwal said the most challenging thing was to make the family feel comfortable with the idea of the documentary and to get them to agree to be filmed. 'I told them about my ideas [for the documentary] and spent a lot of time with them without the camera. I tried my best to get to know them and also let them get to know me,' she said. 'I think respect for my subjects and the ability to listen to them without making judgments is very important.' Argarwal said Hongkongers will be able to relate to the film. 'The family in Ordinary Lives lives in a very small area and I think the Hong Kong audience will be able to understand the way space affects us and our relationships with others,' she said. Argarwal has been making films since 2003, and has several other documentaries to her credit. They include Home and Away, which showcases the lives of Filipino migrant workers in Hong Kong; In Transit, a personal experimental film encapsulating the mental transition of herself; and The Bride highlights the intricate patterns of social behaviour in countries with ancient culture when facing modernisation. 'I wanted to be a documentary filmmaker because I wanted my films to record the process of change and to instigate the process of change by creating a dialogue around issues that I feel are relevant,' she said.