The next entry in this year’s World Cinema Documentary Competition welcomes back a Sundance alum: From the UK/India, Kim Longinotto’s SALMA, the story of a Muslim Indian woman who fought back against repressive traditions to find her own voice.
Sundance Program Description:
When Salma, a young Muslim girl in a south Indian village, was 13 years old, her family locked her up for 25 years, forbidding her to study and forcing her into marriage. During that time, words were Salma’s salvation. She began covertly composing poems on scraps of paper and, through an intricate system, was able to sneak them out of the house,eventually getting them into the hands of a publisher. Against the odds, Salma became the most famous Tamil poet: the first step to discovering her own freedom and challenging the traditions and code of conduct in her village.
As with her other work (PINK SARIS, ROUGH AUNTIES), master documentarian Kim Longinotto trains her camera on an iconoclastic woman. Salma’s extraordinary story is one of courage and resilience, and Longinotto follows her on an eye-opening trip back to her village. Salma has hopes for a different life for the next generation of girls, but as she witnesses, familial ties run deep, and change happens very slowly.
Longinotto has had two previous films screen at Sundance: the jury prize-winning ROUGH AUNTIES (2009) and THE DAY I WILL NEVER FORGET (2003). Her career as a documentary director, producer, and cinematographer began in the late ’70s, with her work tending toward sensitively handled controversial topics where women are at the forefront. Her films have screened at festivals around the world to great acclaim, from Cannes to IDFA, Hot Docs to Frameline. Serving as executive producers are the project’s commissioning editors from Channel 4, Hamish Mykura (also EP for Sundance audience award winner IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON (2007)) and Anna Miralis.
Why You Should Watch:
Every Longinotto film is worth watching for the compassionate approach and assured vision she brings to her subjects and their stories, and that’s certainly the case here. Salma’s background is disturbing exactly because it is so common – something the protagonist is keenly aware of during her return to her village and the home that served as a prison. While she was able to find a way out, and generate attention for her plight, and that of other young women, there’s a stark and sobering element to the film that poignantly reminds the viewer that her story is still the exception, not the rule.