WITH FIRE & BREATH: a dying art


A time-honored tradition spanning 5000 years stands on the brink of fading away in our lifetime.For close to seventy years, Balan has meticulously crafted jewelry in the traditional way with a blow pipe, over an open fire. His generation is one of the last, holding the fading torch of these intricate techniques and we fear this ancient craft will soon disappear.Through the lens of "With Fire & Breath: A Dying Art," we journey alongside Balan in his beautiful home village nestled between the Arabian Sea and the enchanting backwaters of Kerala in Southern India.Here, he shares his story as we witness his expertise and mastery in the crafting of an ‘elis’ – a talisman steeped in symbolism and tradition. A very special piece of jewelry, each elis is blessed by Balan in a private ceremony held in his home temple.

For more info on the film or to inquire about an ELIS:

Director's Statement

Samia Shalabi

With Fire & Breath: A Dying Art was a vision that came to me while soaking in hot springs under the stars in Taos, New Mexico in February of 2022.

For 20 years I have been studying traditional Indian goldsmithing throughout India.
While on what I thought would be a holiday to the beach, I met Balan for the first time. Since that moment in 2008, we have been working together.  

Through this movie I hope to create awareness around the dying art of traditional goldsmithing.  The hard work and legacy of Balan and traditional goldsmiths throughout history has gone unseen far too
long and soon this way of making jewelry will perish. Throughout the storyline we weave Balan’s history and the making of an elis, a talisman and the very first piece of jewelry he made for me 16 years ago.

Director's Statement

Sam Maria Viji

When opportunity invited me to co-create a film about Balan the goldsmith living in a small village near Kannur, Kerala, my memories came alive.

As a boy growing up in Kerala in the 1980’s I remember being intrigued while watching an ironsmith working  at his forge adjacent to his home, it was very joyful for me.

Making this movie has been a sublime experience, rewarding me with the fond memories of childhood as well as using my craft, movie making, to showcase and memorialize Balan and his craft, goldsmithing.

With Fire & Breath: A Dying Art celebrates the coexistence of nature and an artisan while exploring the fragile future of traditional goldsmithing.