YIDFF 2009 International Competition
The Lightning Testimonies
An Interview with Amar Kanwar (Director)

Understanding Sexual Violence

Q: What were your intentions behind the window scenes that appear here and there throughout the film?

AK: In order to understand the subject of sexual violence, I tried to meet with many people and listen to what they had to say. However, my theme being what it was, there were many who didn’t want to talk. I’d meet them and we’d begin talking, but when we came to something they didn’t want to talk about, of course they’d go silent. The window scenes symbolically tell us what might have been seen through them. The windows become a conduit through which we are told what happened inside the houses, without the use of words. The truth is that whatever happened is hidden inside these windows. This kind of brutal subject matter is rather difficult to talk about, so I use many different images in the film. As a result, the story is told symbolically.

Q: I understand that you had planned to make a film on this theme for quite a while, so was there any particular incident that gave you the idea?

AK: I learned from the news that sexual violence against Muslims was actually occurring regularly in the state of Gujarat. People were seething with rage. Everyone was panicking, and it was a state of chaos. People heard the news about the sexual violence, or actually saw it taking place right in front of their eyes where they lived, and they went crazy. I couldn’t figure out why the perpetrators of the sexual violence were celebrating their own actions.

So that was when I decided to take up the theme of sexual violence in order to gain a better understanding of it. I felt that for the country of India and for ourselves as human beings, the acceptance of sexual violence against women was a truly great and serious problem.

Q: As the perpetrators were men, did you as a man yourself have any reservations about making a film on the subject of sexual violence against women?

AK: I had no reservations. On the contrary, I felt that as a man I had to make a film on the theme of sexual violence. When I was making this film, I was very aware of the fact that I was a man. I think the people who I made the film with also sensed their “maleness” very strongly. As I was making the film I asked questions of myself, and I was able to achieve a deeper understanding of myself. I felt strongly my existence as a single human individual.

I am not someone who has experienced the same pain as the people in this film. I didn’t make the film as someone who feels the same way as these people, who were truly battered and broken. And yet, over the two to three years I spent making the film I learned a great many things, even when I was doing preliminary research for it. I traveled to many places, spoke with many people and learned from them. I passed on all I had learned from the first person I met to the next one, and the things I learned from the next person I met, I again passed on to the next. Wherever I went, I repeatedly shared what I had come to understand. My understanding deepened through talking with people. That process is expressed in its entirety in this film.

(Compiled by Kimuro Shiho)

Interviewers: Kimuro Shiho, Hayashi Shoko / Interpreter: Hirano Kanae / Translator: Don Brown
Photography: Nomura Yukihiro / Video: Ichiyanagi Sayuri / 2009-10-11