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Arts & Life

'India's Daughter' Opens In U.S. After Being Banned In India


Every now and again, there's a news story that you just can't get out of your head. In December 2012, there was such a story in India. And this is where I feel I need to say that the details are horrific and may not be appropriate for all listeners. I'm talking here about the attack on medical student Jyoti Singh. She'd gone to the movies in Delhi with a male friend. They boarded a private bus on the way home, but instead of transporting them, the young man gang raped Singh in an attack so vicious, she eventually died from internal injuries. The crime set off a wave of protest that lasted for weeks and led to a worldwide debate about India's treatment of women. "India's Daughter" is a new hard-hitting documentary by British filmmaker Leslee Udwin about the incident and its aftermath. Leslee Udwin, thanks so much for speaking with us.

LESLEE UDWIN: The thanks is all mine.

MARTIN: Why did you decide to make this film? I do note that you were born in Israel, but you live in England. You are not Indian. What about the story particularly grabbed you?

UDWIN: It was the protests. It was the fact that I was absolutely awestruck by the ordinary men and women of India who poured out onto the streets in response to this horrific gang rape and who demanded change for women's rights. And I thought the least I could do was amplify their voices.

MARTIN: Tell me about the approach you took with this film.

UDWIN: Well, I was determined to interview the rapists in this case. I needed to know what those minds are comprised of, in terms of attitudes to women, ideas, notions of what manhood is, what a good girl should do, et. cetera. And I was very tenacious in terms of ensuring that I did manage to interview them. I also took a very strong decision at the beginning of my journey that my voice would not be in this film and that I only wanted to hear from the direct participants in this story.

MARTIN: Well, one of the things that comes out in the film because you interview the participants - I do want to mention you interview the young woman's parents extensively, as well as people who knew her well. But some of the more disturbing and eye-opening conversations are with the perpetrators, but also with their defense counsel.


MARTIN: Which - and I just want to play a short clip from one of the interviews that you had with one of their defense lawyers. Here it is.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: A lady are more precious than a gem, than a diamond. It is up to you how you want to keep that diamond in your hand. If you put your diamond on the street, certainly the dog will take it out. You can't stop.

MARTIN: So what is he saying?

UDWIN: Well, essentially, he is giving expression to patriarchy. He is saying that men hold this diamond - this precious gem of womankind - in their hand. They control it. It's their decision as to where they put this diamond. If you put it on the street, he's saying, you deserve what you get. Keep your girls and women under lock and key at home. Give them no independence. Give them no equality. It's just appalling.

MARTIN: Is there something in the making of this film that particularly surprised you?

UDWIN: So many things surprised me, Michel. First of all, I imagined that at least one of these seven rapists I interviewed would express remorse for even one second. No, they did not- no remorse. Why? Because they deep down really don't believe they've done anything wrong. In fact, they're indignant. Why are they be made an example of when everybody's at it?

Then I expected them to be monsters. I thought I was inquiring into the psychopathy of rapists because the media had told me they were monsters. I wish they had been. Every one of these rapists was as normal as they come. It is the mindset of gender inequality that is responsible for rape and violence against women. These are just the symptoms, and until we change that, this will continue apace across the entire world.

MARTIN: That's Leslee Udwin. Her film "India's Daughter" is playing in select theaters. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.