As the mother of two girls and one of three sisters myself, the statistics about rape are a permanent reminder of just how unsafe the world is, to a person. The fact is that one in four women will be raped; this fact holds true in that within the number of girls and women named in the previous sentence, one indeed already has been raped and another the victim of childhood sexual molestation. We are middle-class, educated. . . . It doesn’t matter.
I watched Leslee Udwin’s documentary, Storyville: India’s Daughter with my husband last night. Originally set to premiere on the BBC and worldwide on International Women’s Day, March 8th, the BBC moved the airing upon hearing that the Indian government had banned the film from airing in India. It’s not surprising, given the level of corruption and openly-held misogynistic views of women held by some of the men speaking in the film. I was safely in my living room, viewing the dark side of human sexuality and power, a case of a desperate need for social and political change.
It’s a story of a amazing girl with amazing parents, “traditional people with modern values,” said Jyoti’s tutor, a young man whose words, in their very breath, held hope of the way forward for India — with compassion, respect, kindness. Such was his regard for his friend, Jyoti Singh.
Storyville was remarkable in its restraint. Jhoti’s adult body was never shown. As someone in the film said, it became about more than her. It became about awakening the voice of young people from the “old ways.” And it never became angry. Neither from the grief-stricken nor the perpetrators.
In the end, it seemed to say that there was enough anger in the crime that is the basis of the film. And we all were exhausted from that alone.
Storyville isn’t a case of prejudiced editing or filmmaking, though I’m sure many will make this accusation in an attempt to save face — I am referring to the resistance of the Indian government to the issue of endemic sexual violence, as discussed in the film and as now witnessed in the government’s banning of the film. — But it’s not a face worth saving. I would say to those people to think, instead, of all the faces that are worth saving.
Storyville is available on iPlayer for a short while and will air again on BBC Four on International Women’s Day — Sunday March 8th at 10pm.