Iraqis under threat, Indian women in focus at Tribeca

Published: April 26, 2012

Producer Cornelia Principe, executive producer Ed Barreveld, director Nisha Pahuja, director of photography Mrinal Desai, Sunny Lee, Khivi, Sinjay Pahuja and Sean Kang attend the World Before Her Premiere during the Tribeca Film Festival. PHOTO: AFP


Iraqis living in danger after working with US troops and diplomats and an examination of women in modern India are two subjects grabbing the attention of critics and audiences among documentaries showing at the Tribeca Film Festival this week.

Both films are part of a line-up of 32 documentaries at the New York festival, which runs through Sunday, that tell true tales from inside and outside the US. Documentaries, which have become more stylised in recent years with inexpensive hi-tech cameras, have traditionally been a strength at Tribeca. This year is no exception and many of these non-fiction movies will be seen in theatres and on TV throughout 2012.

The List tells the story of American Kirk Johnson’s fight to save US-allied Iraqis who are at risk of being kidnapped and killed by militants that have marked them as traitors. The film argues that the Iraqis are trapped in bureaucratic red tape while waiting for US visas. “He is an American hero, he represents what America thinks it is and wants to be overseas,” said director Beth Murphy about Johnson. Murphy spent four years making the film and shooting footage in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and the US.

Not far from this war-torn region springs another film that has encouraged conversations at Tribeca, but this one centres on culture wars in India and the plight of women. The World Before Her, which was chosen as the opening night documentary film, parallels the lives of women in the Miss India beauty pageant and a fundamentalist Hindu camp for girls.

The documentary, which also took four years to make, is yet to be screened in India and may prove controversial for its rare peek and footage of a Hindu fundamentalist camp. “The Miss India pageant was a way to look at India as a country in transition and also show how this new, modern-day India was being written on the bodies of women,” said Canadian director Nisha Pahuja.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2012.

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