When you start watching this short documentary, you might not notice much beyond a bunch of girls trying to make something in a hobby class. But the impact of what they are doing, on their lives, will bring a broad smile to your face.
When Malaika wrote to me about some of the interesting and inspiring things students like herself were doing at Mahindra United World College (MUWC) of India, I had imagined a bunch of college students trying to change the world they lived in. It was only when I finally visited the campus last month in Paud, Pune, that I realized that these students (though indeed trying the change the world and all of that) were actually school students! MUWC is an equivalent of XI-XII standard school and the most interesting aspect that I noticed about it was that it had students from all over the world! Wow – I would have died to study in a school like after my tenth! I didn’t even know not for profit schools like these existed, when I was in school! 🙁
Anyway, so let me not write here what this latest short documentary of mine is about. You should see it for yourself. And if you like what these school kids are doing for the rural women folk (living near their campus), do show support in whichever way you can! You can share this documentary online or just drop a mail to them (email@example.com) acknowledging the their honest effort!
I know this is a little more than twice the the ‘3 minute’ timeline but I failed to bring out the message in anything shorter (I did try)! I hope you don’t mind the duration! You can check out http://nocountryforwomen.org/ (or their FB page) to read more about what they are trying to say!
Here’s a little something that you can do, when you share this video
Can you recall an innocent incident (or story or anything) where Gender Policing happened but no one realized it – including you, but now, after having seen this documentary, you can clearly see it was in fact Gender Policing? Where in some way a girl / woman was rewarded for ‘acting like’ a girl / woman or a boy / man was rewarded for ‘acting like’ a boy / man (or were punished for NOT ‘acting like’ their gender)? And then write about it when you share this video (on FB or twitter)? Because that will have so much more impact than sharing it simply because you think this is yet another video about ‘rape’ and therefore is a good thing to share!
Please use these two hash-tags when you share:
Understood the point of this video and want to do something more about it (than just sharing it online)?
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if:
you are interested in having No Country For Women conduct a workshop (be it your school, college, workplace, residential area – wherever)
you are an activist and would like to collaborate
you are an organization and would like to be a partner or sponsor
you would like them to give a talk (at your workplace, school, college, wherever)
you wish to discuss the content of the video and No Country For Women’s work in greater detail
Please email to me at email@example.com if:
you are a theater owneror someone who can screen this short documentary where relevant audience can watch it
you are a blogger or a writer – and want to bring out the message of this video to your readers (just write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add your site to the embed white-list and the video can then directly be played on your site; it might not play by default).
When most of us in India discuss rape, we think of it merely as being caused by sexual frustration. However there is a lot more to the problem of rape (and other forms of unwanted sexual advances like cat-calling and groping) than just sex. It is important to understand this because unless we do, our solutions will be limited to combating sexual frustration. There is a lot of anger toward the issue, however without proper understanding, the solutions are limited to things like attending protests to “hang the rapists” and “bring in justice” etc. Yes such protests are important but there is so much more we can do. To fully tackle the problem of rape, we must understand its root causes. This short documentary highlights one of the root causes of rape, as well as how we can begin to tackle it.
Shreena and Ria (from India) are undergrads at Brown University (USA). They have been deeply affected by problems of gender-based discrimination and violence while growing up in India. They were frustrated at the ineffectiveness of current solutions and wanted to do something about the issue in a powerful, long-lasting way. They realized that to do this they first needed to fully understand the issue themselves. They began to conduct extensive research on the topic and took several related courses in university. They began to see how rape was about so much more than merely sexual frustration. They realized how something as simple as asking boys (or men) who cry, to ‘stop acting like girls’ or saying something like “boys will be boys” cultivates the same mindset that allows rapists to justify the crime. This might sound weird to understand and that’s why you need to watch this short documentary.
Shreena and Ria realized that unless there was universal understanding of this knowledge, practical long-lasting solutions could not be developed. Therefore they wanted to reach out to everyone in the country and help them understand what they had understood. And finally, they succeeded.
Shreena And Ria succeeded in getting a fellowship from Projects For Peace to run their campaign titled ‘No Country for Women‘, which they run with their Associate Director, Rishabh Singh (who is also an Indian undergrad at Brown University). They have been conducting workshops in schools, organizing a city-wide conference, giving talks and are currently developing a “workshop toolkit” – a developed curriculum to distribute across schools and colleges.
They broadly address the following key points (among many, many more):
Rape is not just about sexual frustration
Sex is biological, gender is socially constructed
Gender Policing can lead to rape
By definition, Gender Policing means forcing a man to ‘act like a man’ or forcing a woman to ‘act like a woman’ (and forcing need not be direct forcing; it could also be in the form of rewarding someone only because he / she behaves as per the societal norms)
The same mindset that feels like rewarding a person of a particular sex to act like their gender, is not very different from the mindset that feels like punishing one when one does not – and in its extreme form, this punishment takes the form of rape
Mild, innocent or even unintentional forms of gender policing happen all the time and everywhere. For example when a boy bullies a girl is school, the girl is often told ‘boys will be boys’ (which is gender policing because it passes on the signal to boys that for a boy to be a boy, he should be aggressive)
Just because we gender police with good intentions (like when we enroll a girl in a ballet class without asking her permission), does NOT mean it is okay to do so! Every time we do gender police, every time we ask a man to ‘stop acting like girl’, we actually perpetuate and validate the justification of so many rapists (‘she was dressed like that – she was asking for it’, ‘she was drunk and out late in the night, we were teaching her a lesson’ etc.)
Stopping Gender Policing will reduce rapes that happen due to social punishment alone. It might not stop all rapes completely, but it will definitely eliminate many scenarios that would have culminated in rape. It will also lead to less social pressure on individual identity and allow boys and girls to be whoever they choose to be.
Ria & Shreena for letting me bring out their core message through my short documentary (but most importantly, for making me see the nature of rapes in a new light)
Kumar Kislay – my cousin – for accompanying me for the first shoot (and for assisting in camera work himself)
My sister Arpita and brother in law Amit for not only letting me use their dining table in Bangalore as my workplace over last 8 days – but also for watching the work-in-progress as many times as I made them watch it, and also for all the valuable suggestions that poured in as a result
Arpita again for volunteering to do a small scripted piece in this documentary
My wife Princy for not making a big deal about me being away from her for 10 days so that I could work on this Project (and also for her feedback on the first cut)
Ankit & Neelabh for their feedback on the first cut (I hope I have been able to address most of their points)
NPS Bangalore for allowing me shoot in their premises when Ria & Shreena went there to conduct their workshop
Several others I might have missed
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai video footage – Dharma Productions
Music: The Broadcaste (Been Alone – Instrumental), Dharma Productions (Kuch Kuch Hota Hai instrumental), Paul Avgerinos (Floating In Darkness)
Neelabh, my best friend from school and my partner at ShaadiGraPher has been an avid film photography lover. He owns multiple film cameras, often shoots with them (except when on commercial shoots such as weddings) and most of the times, develops his own photographs by creating a miniature darkroom in his house. His fridge is full of film-rolls. I often wondered why he cared about film-photography when he could so easily shoot on a digital camera and get the same result? In any case, he was shooting digital anyway. So why care about films? Just an obsession, a hobby? What was it? It wasn’t very clear. What was clear to me was that, very very few people today bothered about film photography. So what exactly was holding back these select few photographers such as Neelabh to the charm of film photography, the old school photography, I could never truly understand.
One fine day, I was discussing with Neelabh the idea of making a documentary on any interesting story that I could find. He suggested I meet the guys at Goa-CAP. What is Goa-CAP, I asked him? CAP stands for Centre for Alternate Photography. These people are film photography lovers and they have been running a community darkroom in Calangute – a centre where all those who are interested in the art of film-processing, can get together and experiment with different processes. There are several different chemical processes to develop a negative into a physical photograph – some even more than 100 years old. And though a lot of info is available online, if you really wanted to try something, you might find it difficult to either get your hands at the right equipment, or the required chemicals or you might realize that the process that you found online, did not yield the desired result, because it was written keeping say Europe’s climate in mind, while you were trying the same in Amchi Mumbai. Goa CAP was helping all these film photography enthusiasts, learn and experiment together.
Neelabh asked me to meet his online friend Edson, one of the three co-founders of Goa-CAP. Edson was responsible for running the community darkroom in Goa. And so I decided to meet him. He could finally help me understand what made people like him and Neelabh still care about film photography even in today’s world of digital camera. Was it because, film-cameras gave better quality or because it made some people feel special – made them feel they were doing something superior that the lowly digital photographers had no clue about? I had several different theories, but I was never really sure, what truly explained the passion of these guys. Passion to still pursue a technology that to me was so clearly obsolete.
After that first meeting with Edson, I hanged around a lot with him and his friend Madhavan – who was the other co-founder of Goa-CAP. And they told their story. And I liked their story. And gradually I came to indeed appreciate the real reason why they still cared about film photography and film processing. At that time, I wasn’t very sure on how to present their story though. I had assumed I would make a 10 to 20 minute documentary but there was so much that they had to say that I found it difficult to put together a nice coherent and most importantly, interesting story. And so the Project went dormant for a long time. I had lengthy footage from my interviews with both Edson and Madhavan – but I did not know how to use them effectively. Until the idea of 3 minute stories occurred. Just like that.
So I went back to the footage that I had, and tried to find the most interesting thing that I could bring out from the hotchpotch of insights that I had gained from these two guys. And there I had – a simply story about why Goa-CAP was doing what it was doing. Which at the same time explained why some people still cared about film photography. And there I had – my first 3 minute story.
I would like to thank Edson and Madhavan for sharing their story and to allow me to shoot footage in their centre (which is presently moving to a different place in Goa and hence is not functional). I would also like to thank the folks experimenting at Goa-CAP who you see in this short-doc (I don’t remember everyone’s names but Sandra, Ajay and Nelvin are three of them – Sandra is an alternate photographer from Mexico who had come down to Goa for a short while; Ajay is a Delhi based painter; and Nelvin is an architect based out of Goa itself). I also thank my wife for helping me connect to a painter friend of her’s – Prerna, and to Prerna for letting me film her at her house, as she worked on her upcoming painting. And for her generous hospitality.
I hope this 3 minute story creates some awareness about what photography really means to some people, especially in today’s digital world when we don’t think beyond seeing and clicking and seeing again. I hope the film photography lovers will like it even more because it strives to explain why they do what they do!