‘India’s Daughter’ documentarian discusses work at Oglethorpe event

“India’s Daughter” is a difficult film to watch. In some places, it is impossible to watch.

Documentarian Leslee Udwin screened and discussed the work, which chronicles the horrific 2012 gang rape of a woman in Delhi, at Oglethorpe University last week. It has been banned in India.

Leslee Udwin. Photo credit: Jennifer Brett

Leslee Udwin. Photo credit: Jennifer Brett

“Nothing in the world could have prepared me for India not embracing the film, let alone banning it,” Udwin said during an interview before the screening event, which benefited Raksha, a Georgia-based nonprofit that serves the local South Asian community; and Vibha Atlanta, which supports an organization based in India that helps educate young girls.

“I cannot for the life of me understand how a responsible politician can ban a documentary and in doing so trample on one of the most important pillars of any democracy,” Udwin said. “Speech is what distinguishes us from the animals.”

The film features interviews with some of the men arrested after Jyoti Singh, a 23-year-old medical student, was attacked. She died from her injuries. A statement issued by India’s Ministry of Home Affairs said the film was banned because certain agreements associated with the jailhouse interviews were violated.

“The government has taken necessary legal action and obtained a restraining order from the court disseminating the contents of the film,” the statement said.

Udwin isn’t buying the official response.

“I can only imagine it was a knee-jerk reaction and it was India’s concern about its image abroad” that prompted the ban, she said. “It seems to me they have made the erroneous conclusion that to be in a good position they need to somehow pretend they don’t have a major crisis.”

The ban, perhaps not surprisingly, served to create awareness of the film. While Udwin derives no joy from India’s inadvertent publicity boost, she is hopeful that it will create a global dialogue.

“I don’t see this as an Indian issue,” said Udwin, who was born in Israel and now lives in London. “Every woman on Earth needs to join in this fight.”

Interviews with Singh’s parents are heartbreaking and the jailhouse interviews are chilling. In one segment, one of the assailants calmly explains his belief that women who are out after dark are essentially inviting assault. As harrowing as his words are, Udwin says, they aren’t extraordinary and point to the need for a wider response.

“What this rapist says reflects what they’ve been taught to think,” she said. “These are ordinary, normal human beings who have been taught to think women are a lesser value than them. You program people with that attitude. Society is responsible for these rapes.”