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United Kingdom, 2013, 90 Minute Running Time
Additional Countries: India
Programs: Documentary, Women + FilmLanguage: English
DIRECTOR: Kim Longinotto
Producer: Kim LonginottoEditor: Ollie HuddlestonScreenwriter: Ollie HuddlestonCinematographer: Kim Longinotto
“After puberty you lose the outside world,” writes renowned writer Salma about her 25 years of incarceration. Adolescent girls in a Muslim village in southern India are taken out of school at puberty and locked away until marriage. Then they are transported from one prison to another under watchful eyes of their husbands and the men’s families, not allowed to experience life. Although this imprisonment is not a common Islamic practice, this village is deeply rooted in its own customs; the women had no voice until Tamil poet Salma resonated their pain in her words.
Reading any scraps of newspaper she could find and writing on torn calendars after her husband threw her notebook away, Salma, with the help of her mother, smuggled her work out of the village to a publisher. Her honest account of her suffering was a sensation, and despite sexist traditions she became the head of her village council, advocating a woman’s right to finish school. After she serves on a national welfare board, Salma’s work is not done, as she advises every young female she comes across to complete her studies, even after marriage. It is a complete uphill battle, but to her the small steps are worth taking.
It is fascinating to see a culture embrace modern technology such as iPhones, laptops, and HDTVs, yet remain so archaic in its policies toward women. Salma’s nephew argues that the Muslim rules, especially the burka, are for her protection and to nullify any temptation of a man’s arousal. And her own sons feel she is a disgrace. But during many cutaways to the beautiful Indian pink sky, especially when Salma hugs her protégé, Fatima, there are glimmers of hope in a sea of despair. It is easy to take freedom for granted when you have never had to live without.
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