This is a hard film for me to review, as it is well-intentioned, but its execution leaves much to be desired. Based on the true incident of a 23-year-old woman who was gang-raped and murdered by six men in India, this is a story that desperately needs to be told. To this day, women are advised not to walk alone in India, and other important films have been made about this very topic, including Angry Indian Goddesses which played at last year’s TIFF. This film is important for what it sets out to do and for the story it tells, yet, I found the style in which it was created ultimately didn’t do the subject justice.
I completely accept that I am not necessarily the best person to judge a film about gang rape. I am certain this film will have a beneficial impact on many who see it – and therefore, if you think this film could benefit you or enrich your life in any way, go see it. We can talk later.
The film uses an experimental, improvisational style that has adult actors play the six rapists and the victim at different points in their lives. The adult actors will play their characters as children, which I found disorienting. They also will use the same room – which is fine if you’re dealing with the creative limitations of theatre, but on film, it made me long for an actual live performance experience. These actors did do a theatrical performance, and then adapted it for film, but with a lot of the theatrical aspects still in tact – including, I felt, low quality sound work which allowed for a lot of disorientating noises to filter in.
I just feel that this film would be better served – as we know that Mehta is capable of doing – as a narrative film instead of an acting exercise. Or even a film about the theatrical experience of these actors may have been better to hit its message home. It just comes off as too gimmicky and low-budget for me.
The question that this film addresses – what makes a rapist a rapist – is worthy of the production value that would get more people to see it.
Accessibility Note: There was no captioning for the English part at the end of the film
Saturday Sept. 17, 9:30pm @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Michael McNeely is a deaf-blind film critic and advocate for greater accessibility in our cinemas. Read more about his story here.