(San Francisco, CA) – In 2012, a promising 23-year-old medical student named Jyoti Singh was brutally gang raped and murdered in Delhi. Her horrifying ordeal and tragic death sparked riots in the streets of Indian cities, leading to changes in Indian law and what activists hope will be widespread change in the way women are allowed to live their lives in India’s patriarchal society. Directed by Leslee Udwin, India’s Daughter, which made international news after being banned in India, premieres on Independent Lens Monday, November 16, 2015, 10:00-11:00pm ET (check local listings).
“The brutal gang rape of Jyoti Singh sparked a movement in India that is demanding deepseated cultural change to beliefs and laws that have created grave consequences for women,” said Lois Vossen, Independent Lens Executive Producer. “Director Leslee Udwin overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to get exclusive, intimate access to the victim's family and friends and startling jailhouse interviews with the rapists. Although banned in India, the film focuses the eyes of the world on this horrific situation.”
Ever since her parents can remember, Jyoti hoped to become a doctor and dreamed of building a free hospital in her parents' village. She persuaded her father to give her what little money he had managed to save for her marriage, and sell a piece of their ancestral land, to pay her medical school tuition. Many family members were shocked that her parents would make such an investment in a girl. But the money wasn’t enough; Jyoti also worked night shifts at a call center, sleeping only three to four hours a night while studying by day. Driven, bright, brave, and passionate about her rights as a young woman in a culture that often ignores the potential of its girls, Jyoti was determined to pull her family — and her country — out of poverty.
On December 16, 2012, Jyoti went with a male friend to see the film Life of Pi. When it was over, the couple headed home on one of India’s many private transport buses. On the bus were six men: a driver (Mukesh Singh) and, posing as passengers, Mukesh’s brother, Ram Singh; Akshay Thakur; Pawan Gupta; Vinay Sharma; and a 17-year-old juvenile whose identity cannot legally be revealed. The six men beat Jyoti’s friend and gang raped her for almost an hour as the bus rode around the highway.
The couple was thrown out of the moving bus, naked and bleeding. They lay on the roadside for almost an hour, pleading for help, but passersby and cars stopped only to stare and then move on. Finally a man stopped to help and the police were summoned.
Against all odds, Jyoti survived for two weeks but died after seven surgeries. Her ordeal and death sparked massive protests and riots in the streets of Indian cities; the protesters were greeted with tear gas and water cannons. Their actions led to legal reform and what some hope heralds a change in how women are treated in India.
Interwoven in Jyoti’s story are glimpses into the lives and values of the rapists whom the filmmakers had exclusive and unprecedented access to interview between their conviction and expected hanging. By exploring their backgrounds and interviewing their families, the film reveals the roots of their attitudes towards women, attitudes which allowed and even encouraged them to commit such a heinous crime. Even more shocking are the interviews with the attorneys for the rapists who steadfastly believe that young women who flaunt patriarchal conventions are asking to be raped and deserve their fate. Also featured are interviews with activists working to ensure that what happened to Jyoti — now known throughout the world as “India’s daughter” — never happens again.
“If anything positive can be said to have come out of the horror of this event, it is the awakening among women and men alike in India and the world to the issue of violence against women,” says filmmaker Leslee Udwin. “This particular incident has been a huge turning point. We hope the film will spark a persuasive plea for change and the establishment of a new norm of freedom and respect for women the world over. Gender inequality, the disease of which the offenses against women are the symptoms, is a global issue.”
Visit the India’s Daughter companion website which features information about the film.
About the Filmmaker
Born in Israel, Leslee Udwin (Director/Producer) began her career as a stage actress in England. She began making films in 1986 and her many credits include Sitting Targets, based on her own experience with one of Britain’s most notorious criminal landlords in which she co-starred with Jonathan Hyde and Phyllis Logan; the award-winning docudrama Who Bombed Birmingham? starring John Hurt, about two 1974 bomb attacks in Birmingham that left 21 dead and six innocent men wrongly convicted and which led to their release after 17 years of imprisonment; the BAFTA award winning comedy-drama East Is East; the romantic comedy The One and Only; the satiric comedy Mrs. Ratcliffe’s Revolution, and West Is West, the sequel to East Is East. She is the founder of the production company, Assassin Films. In 2000, Udwin was awarded the London Critic’s Circle Producer of the Year Award. She also regularly lectures on the power of film to educate and open hearts and minds.
Directed and Produced by Leslee Udwin
Executive Producers: Nick Fraser, Susan Ann Davis, Susan Sarandon, Thomas A. Morgan, Mary Pyatissa Co-
Editor: Anuradha Singh
Associate Producers: Freida Pinto, Riddhi Jha, Peggy Cafferty
Sound Designer: Resul Phookuty
Original Music by Krsna
Solo Camera: Abhey Anand, Harmeet Basur, Anuradha Singh, Jehangir Choudhary, Faroukh Mistry, Sandeep Verma Kumar, Tushar Prakash, Rajesh Kumar
Line Producer: Vineet Batura
India’s Daughter is a production of Assassin Films, co-produced with BBC Storyville, and Tathagat Films (India) in association with Gamini Piyatissa Foundation, Vital Voices Global Partnership, DR, Plus Pictures Aps, CBC News Network, SVT, IKON, RTS, SRF, and RAI.
About Independent Lens
Independent Lens is an Emmy® Award-winning weekly series airing on PBS Monday nights at 10:00pm. The acclaimed series features documentaries united by the creative freedom, artistic achievement, and unflinching visions of independent filmmakers. Presented by Independent Television Service, the series is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, with additional funding from PBS and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. For more visit pbs.org/independentlens. Join the conversation: Facebook and on Twitter.