Leslee Udwin’s documentary “India’s Daughter” on the 2012 gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old paramedical student in New Delhi, which is banned in India, has been screened to packed bookshops, cafes and auditoriums across China.
Ten screenings were held in Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Shenzhen in the past few weeks.
On Tuesday evening, a small but enthusiastic audience in Beijing stood up and clapped at the end of the screening of the one-hour documentary, which some have described as controversial because of an eight-minute unflinching interview with Mukesh Kumar, one of the rapists.
Udwin attended Tuesday’s final screening in China, after the film was invited to be part of an annual film festival on women’s rights and issues.
“I have to be optimistic (about the lifting of the ban in India),” Udwin, 58, told Hindustan Times. “I do not believe that there is any basis for the ban.”
The film was banned days before its release in March, leaving the British filmmaker, in her own words: “ ...shocked... I really did not expect it.”
The case on the ban comes up for hearing next month in the Delhi high court.
“I received an email from Delhi Police that the film would disrupt law and order. Next morning, all hell broke loose in the Lok Sabha.”
Udwin recalled a lawyer telling her after watching the film that it was a “completely, comprehensive pulling together of the issue. 100 percent accurate”.
Not during a single screening, according to Udwin, did the audience respond to the issue of gender violence as an India-centric problem. “Except, sadly, in India,” she said about the voices in India that wanted the film banned.
During international screenings, many spoke about the dignity in the sorrow shown by the victim’s parents.
According to Udwin -- who before making “India’s Daughter” had produced “East Is East” starring Om Puri -- she wanted to achieve three things with the documentary: talk about the life that was lost, amplify the protests that followed the crime, and attempt to peek into the mind of a rapist.
“I interviewed seven rapists (some involved in other cases). What I found out was that they were not monsters; they were ordinary, every-day people (who) did not value women,” she said.
Udwin said filmmakers must shock their audiences. “Shock, we can. Shock, we must... a kick in the stomach.” Clearly, she seems to have delivered one.