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Friday, October 9 • 21:15 - 22:30
India's Daughter

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When the news of the ‘India’s Daughter’ (Jyoti Singh) gang-rape hit our TV screens around the world in mid December 2012, I was as shocked and upset as we all are when faced with such brazen abandon of the norms of ‘civilised’ society. I knew that violent and brutal rapes happen all the over the world with horrifying and relentless frequency.

What moved and compelled me to commit to the harrowing and difficult journey of making this film was not so much the horror of this rape, but the optimism occasioned by the events that followed the rape – the reports of protesters, in unprecedented numbers, braving the December freeze for over a month, in response to this heinous crime. It was the ordinary men and women of India who withstood the onslaught of tear gas shells, lathi charges, and water cannons, to make their cry of ‘enough is enough’ heard with such extraordinary forbearance, commitment and passion, that inspired me to action. 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 ‘me’, for my rights as a woman. I felt compelled to bend my skills, my energies and whatever talents I may have in my field of work (film-making) to amplify those determined and hopeful voices who cried “enough is enough”.

 When we look at the worldwide statistics of rape and violence against women in general, India comes off pretty badly. But I think it is important to bear in mind that this is by no means an India-centric problem. Far from it. Patriarchy, discrimination against, and devaluation of women is rife the world over. The statistics which roll at the end of the film bear witness to that. In my own country, the UK, 33% – that’s 1 in 3 – young girls aged between 13 and 17 have experienced sexual violence. One woman in 5, globally, will be raped or be a victim of attempted rape, and 1 in 3, globally, is beaten, forced into sex, or abused. I have been raped.

 One of the more startling aspects of “INDIA’s DAUGHTER” is an unprecedented confession in custody from one of the rapists in this case. We filmed him in Tihar Jail, Delhi, after his conviction. This interview has afforded crucial insight into the mindset of the men who committed the rape, and presents a wider in-depth exploration of the patriarchal society and culture which seeds and encourages violence against women. With understanding comes the possibility of change.

 What chilled and depressed me most of all through the time I spent making the film, was the realisation when I met the rapists in prison, that these were ordinary, apparently normal and ‘unremarkable’ men. The horrifying details of the rape – the pulling out of Jyoti’s intestines with bare hands -- had led me to expect deranged monsters. It would be easier to process this heinous crime, if they were monsters, the ‘rotten apples in the barrel’, aberrant in nature. Perhaps then, those of us who believe that capital punishment serves a purpose, and I am not amongst them, could wring their hands in relief when they are hanged. For me the truth couldn’t be further from this – and perhaps their hanging will even mask the real problem, which is that it is society itself and our shared culture when it comes to attitudes to women, that is responsible for these men and for their actions.

 An equally chilling and shocking aspect of the film lies in the contribution to it by the defence lawyers, so called ‘educated’ men. It is this, even more than the horrifying lack of remorse and self-justification of the rapists, that confounds viewers and makes them utterly furious. ML Sharma: “We have the best culture. In our culture there is no place for a woman”. AP Singh (the other defence lawyer in the case): “If my daughter indulged in pre-marital relations, I would take her to my farmhouse and in front of my whole family, I would pour petrol on her and burn her alive”.

Jyoti herself, who fought tooth and nail to afford her further education, was determined to work towards changing her society’s attitudes to girls and women. Her motto, according to her closest friends was: “Don’t think you are a ‘girl’: what a boy can do, we can do!” and she’d often express her conviction that the biggest problem in India was ‘mentality’ – that people have fixed and stereotyped notions about the differences between girls and boys, which limit girls lives and infringe their rights. Tragically, it was the very values and attitudes that she decried, and strived against in whatever way she could, which destroyed her. This film pays tribute to her remarkable and inspiring short life, and it looks through the specifics of this case to shine a bright light on what fuels rape and violence against women.

 If anything positive can be said to have come out of the horror of this event, it is the awakening amongst women and men alike in India and the world to the issue of violence against women. This particular gang rape has been a huge turning point. The case has been a catalyst for change, and the protesters forced government to at least introduce some immediate measures in response to their call. Not enough, but a start. Ultimately, the film is optimistic – as Leila Seth says towards the end of the film: “These things will change. It’s only a question of how hard we push”. The massive public response to the incident bears witness to an attitudinal change on the horizon, a resetting of the moral compass.

 All of us who care about those who bear us and who are (or should be) half our world, should stand up now with courage and commitment and demand this long overdue change. I hope with all my heart that this film will prove to be the powerful tool for change I meant it to be. And for this, we need you. Please join hands with our campaign and lend your energies, ideas, and voice to support this push for change.

avatar for Christine Engh

Christine Engh

Deputy news editor, Aftenposten
Christine Engh is deputy news editor at Norway's leading quality newspaper, Aftenposten. She was chief programmer for the Investigative Film Festival at GIJC-2015.

avatar for Leslee Udwin

Leslee Udwin

Documentary filmmaker, Assassin Films
Leslee Udwin is an independent British filmmaker based in London. No stranger to campaigning films which proved to be powerful tools for change, she produced “Who Bombed Birmingham” (starring John Hurt, for Granada/HBO) which directly led to the release of the ‘Birmingham Six... Read More →

Friday October 9, 2015 21:15 - 22:30 CEST
Lillehammer 3 (Presentations/Panels)

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