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India’s Daughter: Can a Movie Change a Country’s Attitude Towards Women?

India's Daughter: Can a Movie Change a Country's Attitude Towards Women?

As I sit on this flight to India to participate in the American Film Showcase program, I can’t
stop thinking about the documentary “India’s Daughter.” The film
made headlines across the world last week when it was banned in India by the Prime Minister. (A hearing will be held this week to try and lift the ban.) During the hour the doc was originally supposed to air, the NDTV network went black for an hour in protest of the government’s decision.

“India’s Daughter” tells the story of 23-year-old Jyoti Singh, a
medical student, who was raped and brutalized on her way home from seeing “The Life of Pi.” For the crime of being a young woman who enjoyed an evening out with a (male) friend in a democratic, civil society, she was
gang-raped and ultimately killed. This young woman, with so much promise ahead of her, was
murdered by a mob of men who believed that no woman should have the freedom that was her legal right. (Her friend was also assaulted; he has survived.)

This story resonated across the world. It hits all of us hard because it is so senseless and serves as a potent reminder of how much work still needs to be done in the fight for women’s rights. British director Leslee Udwin, who is as passionate an activist director as I’ve ever seen, grabbed the world’s attention by including in her documentary an interview with one of the rapists who spoke about how Jyoti deserved to
be raped because she went out at night without a husband or a family member. To make matters worse, one of the
defense attorneys shockingly also said that if his daughter had done what Jyoti
did, he would have set her on fire. (Seeing a trained attorney have these thoughts was almost worse than seeing the rapists’ confession. This man should know better.)

This movie shocked everyone at its NY premiere this past
Monday. Meryl Streep and others, including Frieda Pinto, came together in support of the film. Pinto gave an impassioned feminist speech at the close of the film. (Read it here.) 

This film and Jyoti’s story have ignited
a firestorm of debate in India, forcing the country to deal with some very difficult issues under the scrutiny of the rest of the world. It’s not like any country has a perfect record on rape. The good news is that the movie is being seen throughout India in guerrilla screenings. A recent screening was held in the village of the rapist interviewed in the film.

For me personally, as I journey to this country for
the first time for a week of activities celebrating women’s history month
alongside director Freida Mock (“Anita”), I look forward to learning and listening
about this issue. 

“India’s Daughter” is now available for educational use from Women Make Movies. You can also stream it here.

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