By Anjum Choudhry Nayyar
Sex selection abortion has been illegal in India for more than a decade yet gender bias rooted in cultural norms still means that millions of girls go missing in India each year. Even in North America, Producer and director Nyna Pais Caputi says, the cultural bias still lingers despite it being 2012. Nyna says it’s this very topic that never gets discussed in schools or other educational institutions. And it inspired her to tell the story of through the eyes of those women with a goal to educate. She produced ‘Petals in the Dust,’ to do just that.
Born in Mumbai, Nyna has produced and directed several short films: DCBA – Desi Confused by America, which premiered at the Luna Fest in San Francisco in 2007, Able which won best film at the Vale Film Festival and received an honorable mention at the Cinema Vita Film Festival and Gentle Lovers which screened at the Park City Film Music Festival in 2006.
Now living in the San Francisco Bay Area with her two sons and husband, Nyna says the movie has been a way for her to give those girls a voice. We had a chance to talk to Nyna about the film and the messages she hopes to convey.
What inspired you to make this film?
I was lucky to be born into a family that valued girls. Growing up in India I was quite oblivious to the fact that girls were being murdered, as the media rarely reported about female infanticide nor was it a topic that was discussed in school and college. I became aware of the intensity of the problem when I was trying to adopt a girl from India. I was extremely disturbed and saddened to learn that over 10 million girls had been eliminated in the last two decades. I felt I owed it to the girls and women of India to tell their stories and create awareness through a documentary film.
In conjunction with the film, I also founded the Global Walk for India’s Missing Girls in 2010, an annual walk that has taken place in over 25 cities across the globe including India, the US, Canada, Australia and Kuwait to create awareness of female genocide in India.
What do you hope people learn from it? What message are you hoping to convey?
I hope people will learn that this issue cannot be ignored any longer. This is the worst genocide in India’s history and unless we act soon, the Indian girls will continue to be eliminated. I also believe the future of our Indian girls lies in the hands of the youth and educating school and college kids on the equality of the sexes and the value of both boys and girls, as well as building self-esteem and empowering girls and women would be the way to go to end this. So hoping to spread this message through screenings at educational institutions and women’s organizations.
How long did it take to shoot this film, and where?
We returned from India early this year where we spent about seven weeks traveling around India shooting the film. We interviewed people in Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Ludhiana, Pune and Mumbai.
As a mother, how do you teach your kids about women in our culture? What role can mothers of today play in dispelling myths?
As a mother being a positive role model for my kids is very important. As they are both boys I also want to instill in them the value of women. They have been so exposed to the “gendercide” issue in India, that my six-year-old son wants to build a hospital to save the lives of girls in India. I think every mother owes it to her children to teach them to respect and value other individuals no matter what their race, their economic status, their religious beliefs, their gender etc. If we Indian mothers favor one gender over the other or have our kids believe that boys are superior to girls, then we have failed in our duty as mothers.
In your opinion, how common is this problem in North America?
The desire for sons exists among Indian in North America as well. The desire to have sons has become so ingrained in our culture, that even Indians in the upper echelons of society in India as well as some Indians living in the US, Canada and the UK will go to great lengths to conceive a son.
What role does our culture play in preventing the problem from being resolved?
I really believe it boils down to how our culture perceives women. As long as we are considered to have less value than men and to be a burden, then the violence against us will continue from ” the womb to the tomb.”
Where will we be able to see this film?
We intend to screen the film worldwide through screening partners. The film will also be available through consumer versions of the DVD and digital streaming versions. If people are interested in screening the film, they can send me an e-mail at email@example.com
Watch the trailer on Youtube.
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