Amazonia (Dir: Nandini Sikand, 2001)

Country of Origin:
Running Time: 8 min

Original Format: Color & B/W, 35 mm

Related Subjects: Health, women’s health issues, body image, breast cancer


Amazonian women were legendary warriors who were said to have cut off their breasts in order to become more skilled archers. In her film titled “Amazonia”, Sikand presents her sister’s experience with breast cancer in an unusual but moving style. The film is experimental and incorporates lines of prose with video of urban environments and more personal visions of her sister’s body. Sikand cleverly superimposes images to compare the urban environment with the landscape of the patient’s body. She is also creative with the overlay of sound in “Amazonia”. At the beginning of the film, she uses tropical sounds in the background overlaying both the urban imagery and the depiction of the internal environment of the human body. Later, the nature sounds are replaced by the honking of car horns, sirens, and other sounds associated with a busy metropolis. These grating noises and the grittiness of the city images help to compare Sikand’s sister’s scarred physicality with the dirtiness and scarring of an urban jungle. She depicts women battling breast cancer as warriors equivalent to the fierce Amazons.

Sikand demonstrates the pain involved with illness in a hopeful and triumphant manner, emphasizing survival. She presents the concepts ying and yang as compared to the symmetrical right and left breasts. She then unveils the physical effects of breast cancer, showing a front on view of her sister’s body, post- treatment. This image is accompanied by a face shown half in light and half in shadow. The sister slowly removes her wig, showing her baldness as a shocking testimony to the effects of cancer treatment on her body. These images are consistent with the idea of inner conflict and the depiction of women battling breast cancer as amazons defending their territory. Sikand alternates black and white with vivid color. The black and white portions of the film lend a starkness to the images, but the contrasting color scenes are full of life. The film is moving in its depiction of what Nandini Sikand’s sister has lost to cancer, and serves to inspire women in their battle.

Quotes from Critics:

“…provides a new way to imagine the lives of those in pain with ongoing serious illnesses. It offers a textured imagery of crowds and cities and struggle, of fighting and nobility it’s not about being a victim. Illness brings pain and loss, but it is also full of life.”
Julia Lesage
English Dept, University of

“… a visually stunning video, shuttling between chillingly sharp digital photography and warm, poignant, almost pointalist images… Evocative of both individual memory and the history of gendered bodies, it claims, in its short length, both the Lyric and the Manifesto, as it engages questions of breast cancer.”Joseph BolesNorthern Arizona University

Bibliographic resource:

Tummala- Narra, P., Bewtra, A., and Akhtar, S. 2006. The celluloid
Ganges: an annotated filmography of the Indian diaspora. International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies. 2(3): 297-310.