When I was invited to see the Los Angeles premiere of India’s Daughter, as a documentary lover I was intrigued. I remembered all to well the horrific story of Jvoti Singh, a 23-year-old Indian medical student, who died after being gang raped and brutally attacked with an iron rod on a New Delhi bus. Turns out, I didn’t quite realize what I was in for. Sean Penn, upon introducing the film, compared the movie to having a MRI, by no means pleasant, but vitally important. Adding, “I was never sure that films are important – until last week”. How right he was.
The documentary was hair-raising, anger inducing and beyond incredibly sad, yet there was a glimmer of hope in the uprising of the women and men who braved the onslaught of teargas shells, lathi charges and water canons to proclaim they have had enough. In fact, it was the brave protests of these men and women, in unprecedented numbers, which compelled director, Leslee Udwin, to commit to the difficult two-year journey of making this film. As she explains, “This was an Arab spring for Gender Equality, and it occurred to me that in my lifetime I had never witnessed any other country make such a stand for my rights as a woman.”
Udwin, who was criticized for including footage of the 31 hours she spent interviewing the convicted rapists, wants the viewers “to learn the attackers are products of the society and education system that they grew up in.” When I first heard the driver of the bus say point-blank in the movie, “ A girl is far more responsible for a rape than a boy.”, and justify their behavior in part because the victim was “out too late at night”, I was sickened. I thought surely his beliefs stems from a lack of education and from living in extreme poverty. But, when you here the defense attorney say, “We have the best culture. In our culture, there is no place for a woman”, and another say if his daughter or sister “engaged in pre-marital activities … in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight”, you realize (beyond being even more mortified) that it’s not the access to education but the content of education, that is at play here. In India’s patriarchal society, women and men are raised to believe that women are far less important human beings. They are less than second class citizens.
At the Q & A after the film, Udwin strongly emphasized that this is not solely an India problem, but a global epidemic; one that takes place in every nook and cranny of this world. One of the harshest reality awakenings happens in the last few minutes of the film, when the global statics of violence against women are broadcast, country by country, in all their ugliness.
To find a screening near you visit here.
We Are Not Done Yet
I’ll be posting more on these documentaries soon. Stay Tuned.