YIDFF 2011 New Asian Currents
My Own City
An Interview with Sameera Jain (Director)

Taking Back Women’s Space and Gaze

Q: This film features mostly women who aim to become taxi drivers. Why did you think to film them?

SJ: I wanted to make a film on themes of space and gender relations, and I happened to meet these women on the street. At first I thought of using interviews, but then the audience would just watch the film and return home satisfied. I wanted my audiences to not simply understand through words, but to share their experience. I wanted to make a film that allows them to feel this place. From the start, I didn’t use a script. I befriended the women and began filming. Interestingly, as they became used to being filmed, some of them told me how they wanted to be shot.

Q: This film points cameras at women in the city and the looks men send them. Why did you construct it this way?

SJ: It’s universal to look at cute people walking in the city, pretty women, handsome men or adorable children. But the women who appear in this film aren’t especially beautiful. The gazes they receive from men are not simple looks. They don’t go as far as surveillance, but I think they are observation. I wanted to capture this with a camera, and take back the space and gaze of the women that live in Deli.

Q: Judging solely on what I saw in the film, I didn’t feel there were many women in Deli.

SJ: In the Deli I live in, sometimes women aren’t taken into account when public facilities are built. It’s thought that they remain in the home. The female taxi drivers in this film struggle to find bathrooms. If a man can’t hold it he can relieve himself on the side of the road, but that’s not the case with women. That said, I think that the number of public toilets for women is about half as many as that of men’s. In the film there are trains with women’s only cars and buses with women’s only seats. While it looks like these are out of consideration for women, the contradiction is that in reality they do the opposite and discriminate. In reality, you do see women in parks and on the street. But they are always made to feel uncomfortable in Deli’s public places. I would like you to experience that discomfort in this film.

Q: What did you have in mind by using hidden cameras?

SJ: I do not operate hidden cameras myself, so they yield images not of my will. In this film I put cameras in women’s bags, and when shooting the man staring at a woman lying down in a park, I used a fixed hidden camera.

When editing and I saw the images from the hidden camera I had put in the bag, I felt them to be frail. I think they show the danger she faced. On the other hand, the fixed hidden camera has a stable image, and I thought it shows her confidence. I carefully divided my use of the two. One of the discoveries of this film was how interesting images from hidden cameras are.

(Compiled by Hanawa Shun)

Interviewers: Hanawa Shun, Iwai Nobuyuki / Interpreter: Saito Shinko / Translator: Kyle Hecht
Photography: Koshimizu Emi / Video: Hirose Shiori / 2011-10-10