Written and Directed by Nisha Pahuja | 125 min | ▲▲▲▲△ | National Film Board of Canada
To Kill A Tiger is a surprise Academy Award-nominee for Best Documentary from Toronto-based filmmaker Nisha Pahuja, with Mindy Kaling and Dev Patel on board as Executive Producers.
The film takes us to a village in Jharkhand, India, where a 13-year-old girl was gang raped by three men who abducted her at a wedding. Her father, Ranjit, a farmer, reports the rape to the police. The three men are identified and arrested, but in the process of going to trial the family is ostracized by the villagers, who are concerned with the shame this brings on them. We learn the very act of a father supporting his daughter in these circumstances is unusual.
The villagers’ solution is to marry the girl off to one of the rapists since in perpetuity no other man will have her. They blame her and her family for the behaviour of the men. Meanwhile, Ranjit is threatened by the families of the rapists, and spends all his money to bribe judicial officials because otherwise the case won’t get the proper attention. On Ranjit’s side are lawyers from the Srijan Foundation, an Indian NGO that helps to educate men and boys about women’s rights.
It’s been a long time since I watched a documentary so good at infuriating its audience as this one. It effectively depicts a patriarchy run amok, where a hopelessly corrupt system values men and their freedoms far more than women or girls. I found myself yelling at the screen at the incredible displays of ignorance, especially by villagers upset by the family’s courage to seek justice. At one point even the filmmakers are threatened for being involved, and are told the police won’t help them if they’re the victims of violence.
Ranjit does whatever he can against an entirely unfeeling system and a society that would rather cover up these hideous crimes. We also get time to know his daughter, who sees her father’s sacrifices on her behalf and wants to do right by him.
This is a powerful, unforgettable story. It really feels like the kind of film that could bring change, and you can’t help but hope it does.