Pink Saris (Produced for UK Channel 4,shot in Uttar Pradesh, India, US Distributor Women Make Movies)
Pink Saris is a new documentary from Kim Longinotto that follows the efforts of the Gulabi Gang, or Pink Gang, a group of female vigilantes against domestic violence in the lower castes of Northern India. The group was founded by Sampat Pal after she was forced out of her home for fighting back when her husband and her in-laws beat her. When women are in trouble, they find Sampat and she fights for them, either through law enforcement or through negotiating with the women’s husbands and families-in-law.
The documentary focuses on Sampat, following her as she negotiates on behalf of five different women. It mostly lets Sampat speak for herself, employing no voiceover, limited subtitles of background information, and brief questions asked of Sampat and her clients. The majority of the film consists of dialogue between Sampat and others. It is clear that Longinotto is in awe of Sampat and her great efforts for women, but it does not shy away from showing her actions that are easily unlikeable. She sends her niece back to the in-laws who beat her in order to garner good will with the family. Within twelve hours, the girl is beaten again.
The film succeeds best at raising awareness of the pervasiveness of the issue of domestic assault and general mistreatment of women of the lowest castes in India, showing that there are few good options for many of the women in these situations. Many of Sampat’s solutions involve sending her charges back to abusive relatives, after negotiation promising change, but with no guarantee that this will be true.
The film was featured at several prominent international festivals (IDFA, Toronto) and has been nominated for s 2011 BAFTA for Best Single Documentary.
Alex Younger April 2011