Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
HRWFF ’13: Salma
Vitamin D is not a big priority in the provincial Muslim communities of
southern India—women’s rights even less so.
One prominent Tamil woman understands this from first-hand
experience. For nine years, her family
kept her locked away from the outside world until she finally consented to an
arranged marriage. The poet-politician
tells her story in Kim Longinotto’s documentary profile, Salma (trailer
screens during the 2013 Human Rights Watch Film Festival.
pre-teenaged Salma (as she is simply known) desperately tried to hide the onset
of puberty, because she knew her parents will pull her out of school and
sequester her until marriage. She actually valued learning, making her quite
the problem child. She was also
disinclined to marriage, holding out for as long as possible. Finally, she acquiesced, only to find her
circumstances largely remained the same.
Only her jailers changed.
at great risk of physical abuse or worse, Salma starting writing poetry, which a
sympathetic family member furtively submitted to a publisher (not completely
unlike Jafar Panahi’s This is not a Film,
smuggled out of Iran in a cake). Her
powerful verse became a sensation, scandalizing the village and outraging her
family. However, it also made her a
celebrity, forcing her in-laws to let her out into the world, setting the stage
for an unlikely political career.
is an eloquent advocate for reform and her experiences are almost unfathomable
for the Twenty-First Century. She is
well worth listening to, but Longinotto allows her to leave obvious 800 pound
gorilla questions unanswered. Most
notably, just about every viewer will wonder why she remains silent on the
nature of the religion used to justify her oppression. In fact, she is still outwardly quite devout. Is it all for the sake of her political
career? Longinotto never pushes her on
the issue, despite all the fundamentalist misogyny expressed by her grown
nephew, among others.
Nonetheless, reality speaks for itself in every
frame of the film. Indeed, the
implications of Salma’s personal history are inescapable. Longinotto nicely incorporates Salma’s verse,
adding a literary dimension to the film.
Informative and bravely intimate in a burqa-less way, Salma screens tomorrow (6/14) at the IFC
Center and Saturday (6/15) at the Francesca Beale Theater.
Labels: Documentary, HRWFF '13