Summary

Mahila tells stories of empowerment from India’s rural Dalit communities.

For ages, Dalit women have suffered from a triple discrimination based on their gender, their caste and their impoverished economic class. The women of “Mahila” have found a rare voice and an important standing in their communities. They’ve achieved this through education, through access to credit and training to form businesses, and through awareness of their rights as citizens.

Mahila introduces us to three generations of Dalit women who represent a movement that is changing the face of India. Young Indira gets her parents full support to fulfil her dream of becoming a teacher. Jaysree leads a women farmers’ cooperative that negotiates fair prices for their dairy production. And, finally, Mary Rani is the first Dalit woman to be elected president of her village.

About Sabrina Varani

Sabrina Varani, director of photography and documentary film-maker, worked on fiction films in Italy and France from 1984 to 2000. She has spent the last 15 years working mainly on documentaries, collaborating as director of photography with top Italian documentary film-makers like Agostino Ferrente, Costanza Quatriglio. Roland Sejko. At the same time she works on her own documentary projects, mainly on social and gender issues. “Riding for Jesus”, her most recent directorial work, has been selected for numerous Italian and foreign film festivals and broadcasted in Belgium and France. It was a winner at the 2012 Detour Film Festival and one of 20 finalists in the 2012 Doc/it Professional Award for Italian documentaries.

Director’s Statement

As a filmmaker I traveled to many countries around the world but I had not had the opportunity to go to India before.”Mahila” was the perfect chance to enter the depths of one of the most burning issues in this great country and at the same time in a very important global theme: women’s emancipation through education. It was interesting to approach such a theme through a religious community and find out precisely in those women who have renounced by their choice some of the fundamental freedoms as individual, such as having a partner and children, you could discover women showing a stunning force and a free spirit. They are tireless social activists, who are strong-willing and clear-minded, capable of creating fundamental changes with limited resources. The film starts wtih a simple purpose, documenting a project of empowerment of women among the most marginalized caste in India, the Dalits. During my journey I saw in the eyes of the girls that I filmed hope and potential of all women following a bigger global path, without limits in time and space. This path is the age-old struggle of women to achieve their self-fulfilness and freedom from all repressive forces who try to undermine it. This hard struggle, which leaves misery and often death on the field, is told through constructive actions, through kindness and intelligence, through the power of education that becomes the vehicle of transformations. These changes are only apparently small and they are actually a nuclear blast of consciousness. In making this film, I tried to express the feeling that I felt while I was there with those women: the sense that there is a huge revolution in small actions like these. A revolution to which no end is yet in sight is now taking place, but which certainly is making and it will make makes the world a better place to live.