At the core of the film is the relationship between father and daughter, and how the dynamics how the dynamics of it play out when the daughter decides to take her life into her own hands. This Anglo-Indian collaboration aims to highlight the problems of forced marriage and an honor crime; something that affects thousands of women in Britain and across the world, according to its writer and director.
The team that created the 99-minute Land Gold Women, and the writer and director, Avantika Hari, and producer, Vivek Aggrawal, are both from India. The film has won numerous awards including Indie Fest’s 2011 Humanitarian Award. Hari recently shared what it was like to make such a powerful film, and why she believes so strongly in it and what makes her a humanitarian.
“Ever since I conceived of the film, the aim has been to raise awareness about the brutality of honor crimes and the destruction they cause to the family and social unit. To do so, we have undertaken several initiatives over the last few years for the cause behind the film,” Hari said.
Q: How did this topic become the crux of the film?
A: Between 2004 and 2006 I was a student at the London Film School and honor killing was a hot button issue in the United Kingdom that time. Every day presented a new case and I was intrigued because I had never heard of an honor killing before that. A little bit of digging revealed tremendous misconceptions and misunderstanding about the issue, so I decided to explore it more.
Q: How long did it take to complete the film?
A: Two years of research, eight months of scripting, five months of pre-production, 24 days of shooting, and three months of post-production.
Q: Will you do a sequel?
A: There's no sequel planned but several scripts covering other subjects are in the works. All have strong social messaging.
Q: How do you feel to have won an Indie Fest Humanitarian Award?
A: Incredibly honored and touched. For first time, filmmakers are tackling difficult but socially relevant subjects for cinema. This is exactly the kind of boost we need to encourage us to stay on this path. It makes the journey incredibly rewarding!
Q: What makes you a humanitarian?
A: My upbringing in various parts of the world and the strong influence of my socially conscious parents, and teachers made me very aware of the human condition. I was taught to be balanced and sensitive to people's circumstances and understand issues from their perspectives.
Q: Why is this subject important to you?
A: It is important it seems so anachronistic. This practice is outdated and has no place in our world today. With all of the advancements of humankind, it struck me as a brutally primitive practice which still claims thousands of lives the world over.
Q: Does this film send the message you intended?
A: Most definitely. The message of the film is that there is no honor in honor killing, and the film pull out all the stops to say so. By portraying the issue from the perpetrator's perspective, we had the ability to depict the devastating consequences of such a practice on a family, community and society at large.
Q: Do most people just turn a blind eye when they hear of these horrific acts against women?
A:Yes; unfortunately. Women's issues are considered boring and popular media's short attention span regarding this issue doesn't help either. Getting people's attention at first is always a challenge but their perceptions do change once they watch the film.
Q: Why the title?
A: Land Gold Women is a social code originating in pre-historic times. They symbolize the three things that man readily kills for.
Q: Advice to others who might like to follow in your footsteps?
A: If you feel strongly about making a film, make sure you've got the distribution sorted before embarking on production. It then becomes a stress-free experience.
Q: Is this a film that young people, college or high school students could benefit from? Is it for women only?
A: The film revolves around the dynamics of relationships within families. Anybody who has strong relationships with their own parents or siblings will identify with the family. Fathers, mothers, and young girls, will definitely identify with the film. The bulk of honor crimes victims lie in the age bracket of 15-25. By initiating college screenings we are targeting this group directly and encouraging them to find ways and means of protecting themselves, and their families from taking extreme decisions that might cause them to lose one or more of their family members. We have so far reached 10,000 college students and aim at reaching at least 50,000 in the next six months. We conducted a short film competition that encouraged students to make their own films around the issue. These are now being posted on our Facebook page, Land Gold Women - the film, to garner debate and discussion about the issue among the youth population of India.
Q: Do you personally know anyone who this has happened to?
A: No, thankfully, but I do have friends who have had to choose between family and their boyfriends. As part of my research, I met victims of honor crimes who were housed in shelter homes who had managed to run away from their houses after being threatened with death. It was hearing their stories that provided the determination to go out and make the film.
Q: How as a filmmaker can you help make the world more aware of this? Will it help in those parts of the world where they believe it is okay to treat women this way?
A: My role as a filmmaker is to reveal phenomena in the most interesting and honest way possible. Of course, there's always the hope that we will change lives by raising awareness, we will encourage others to re-examine practices that have no place in this time and age, but I think bringing awareness itself, introducing it to people's consciousness does a lot of good. We can do our best to enable the largest number of people to watch the film and I believe the film will do the rest.
Q: How can people help or contribute?
A: They can join our movement, buy a DVD of our film, proceeds of which go toward the improvement of women's lot in India; they can contribute to our online social media forums; and go out and watch the film when it comes out in their local theatre. They'll be doing a lot by spreading the word and buying a ticket/DVD.
Q: Has the film won any other awards?
A: After successfully traveling the global festival circuit, we received 14 official film festival nominations and seven international awards. The film was recognized by the President of India, Mrs. Prathiba Patel as part of the National Film Awards in 2010. The film was presented the Best Feature Film in English award at the event.
Q: Anything new to date on the film?
A: In June 2011, our production company A Richer Lens officially launched the Movement to End Honor Violence in India. Our research indicated that in India, awareness about the crime wasn't high, especially because honor crimes were seen as part of the wider domestic violence umbrella and that the State provided very little infrastructure to women in distressed domestic circumstances. Therefore, as part of this movement, we have launched several initiatives to meet two distinct ends: To raise awareness; and to encourage initiatives that work on the prevention of domestic/honor violence.
Prior Indie Fest Humanitarian Award Winners
The Indie Fest's 2010 Humanitarian Award winner was Ted Unarce in recognition of his documentary, Modern Day Slaves, which raises awareness among the public about the plight of overseas workers. LINK The Indie Fest's 2009 Humanitarian Award winner was Chris Taylor in recognition of his documentary, Food Fight, which raises awareness among the public about the importance of high-quality food, sustainable agriculture and health-related issues. Of special merit is his focus with children and young adults. LINK