I’d like to use the controversial recent documentary India’s Daughter to discuss the documentary film interview. The film relates the story and fallout surrounding the gang-rape and subsequent death of Jyoti Singh, who was attacked on a bus while returning home from the cinema with a male friend in south Delhi.
The incident provoked outrage within India, but for me the most interesting part of the documentary, which was banned in India, is the interviews with both the rapists and the lawyers.
It is astounding that people are willing to expose themselves on camera citing opinions that are not simply unpopular but inhumane. I wonder what kind of talent the filmmaker must have to exhume these opinions from these men – or perhaps none is needed; they are simply that vile. However, the real issue at stake here is whether these men should be allowed any kind of platform for self-expression at all.
Another striking thing was the extent to which these men go to find excuses to justify rape. “She was out with a boy…” “…it was late at night…” “…she was using public transport…”. The excuses themselves are irrelevant and reminiscent simply of a culture that is in the process of becoming more forward-thinking when it comes to women’s rights. We are no better in the West. “She was so drunk, she said yes…” “…she was wearing a miniskirt; what did she expect?” It seems as if men will always find excuses to violate women, and to see that in real-life interview situations from such a heavily publicised case is very provocative.
How interviews are conducted and edited in documentary film is a contentious issue – clearance and release are of course important so that the subject does not come across in a way he did not intend, but editing can be used in manipulative ways. I fear that in the case of India’s Daughter, though, there has been no manipulation on the part of the editors.