Land Gold Women puts focus on honour killings

Louis B. Hobson- Calgary Herald
This year’s Oscar for best documentary short went to Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness.

It focused on the plight of an 18-year-old girl in Pakistan who incurred the wrath of her father and uncle when she eloped with a man she loved who was not her family’s choice for her.

As Obaid-Chinoy explained in her acceptance speech, every year more than 1,000 young girls and women fall victim to barbaric religious practices which sanction honour killings.

Moved by the international outcry surrounding Obaid-Chinoy, the president of Pakistan announced he will have his justice ministers look into changing the laws that protect the men from any repercussions especially if it is a family member who dies at their hands.

Watching the Oscars, and especially the win for A Girl in the River, Niru Bhati, the artistic director of Calgary’s Hidden Gems Film Festival, knew she had to find a film about honour killings for Hidden Gem’s March offering.

Bhati also knew that film had to be Avantika Hari’s 2011 award-winning film Land Gold Women, so she called the filmmaker at her home in England to get permission to screen the film on March 20 at 2:30 p.m. in the amphitheatre of the Alberta College of Arts & Design in the building adjacent to the Jubilee Auditorium.

“When we see films about honour killings in Pakistan or India — and there are some very disturbing ones — it’s too easy to dismiss the subject because it’s happening in those countries,” Bhati says.

“The thing about Land Gold Women is that it is set in contemporary Birmingham and the father is not an uneducated man. He teaches at the University of Birmingham.

“It’s only when his very traditional brother arrives from Pakistan that he is drawn back into a cultural mindset that condones punishment for women who disobey their fathers,” says Bhati.

“This man’s great dilemma is whether to risk losing his daughter or all family ties.

“He’s not a monster but what he might do is definitely monstrous.”

Bhati says the film also “looks at how western countries try to punish these cultural crimes in modern courts and that is not always easy.

“It also asks very clearly and effectively what’s honourable about any killing.”

Bhati stresses that Land Gold Women is “not only a timely film but the only one I thought was appropriate for our audiences.”

While she had Hari on the phone, Bhati asked if she could also screen the filmmaker’s short film Hat Day, which had impressed Bhati for its ability to move audiences in such a brief time.

“Anushka was thrilled that I wanted to show Hat Day as short films get so little exposure.”

Tickets are $15 at the door for cash only.

The popular Chai Cafe opens from 1:30 to 2:15 p.m.

Quebec doctor’s love song goes viral, challenges Indian taboos

Frank Gregoire’s rendition of Hindi tune ‘Tum Hi Ho’ was a wedding day surprise for his wife. A video of it has since earned more than 4.1 million views

When French-Canadian doctor Frank Gregoire sat down at a piano to tickle the ivories with a Hindi love song, he was envisioning the tune as a wedding day moment that would stun his wife. Little did he know, that video would garner more than 4.1 milli

When French-Canadian doctor Frank Grégoire sat down at a piano to tickle the ivories with a Hindi love song, he was envisioning the tune as a wedding day moment that would stun his wife.

Little did he know, that video would garner more than 4.1 million views when posted online, making its way to India, where it has been lauded for cracking the centuries-old glass walls that have made inter-faith marriages taboo.

In a Sikh-Christian ceremony, Grégoire, a 36-year-old doctor from Sherbrooke, Que., wed Simran Malhotra, 27, also a doctor, but from Toronto. The June 27 nuptials took place in Baltimore, Maryland, not far from Johns Hopkins Hospital, where the pair work.

They met there about three years ago when Grégoire was working as a critical care physician and Malhotra was starting her medical residency. Malhotra quickly learned that Grégoire was a singer and piano player from a musically inclined family.

Though Malhotra had heard Grégoire sing at family get-togethers, their wedding was the first time he had belted out a Hindi tune — scoring points with the in-laws.

“Tum Hi Ho”, the track he settled on, was from a 2013 Bollywood movie, Aashiqui 2. It is sprinkled with lines about loyalty and devotion to a lover.

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“It took four weeks to learn just the words and the hard part was that Simran is around all the time,” Grégoire told the Star. “I couldn’t practice, so in the shower or driving to work, that’s what I did.”

The song, he said, had been suggested by Malhotra’s mother after he approached her looking for a Hindi poem to recite for his wife. (Simran, who calls herself “the cheesiest person in the world,” had joked that their wedding gifts to one another should be something “with some meaning or thought behind it” because Gregoire was known to give her jewelry.)

At the ceremony, attended by 130 family members and friends, Grégoire took his place behind the piano after professing his love for Malhotra.

“When he started singing in Hindi, I didn’t know what to think or say or do,” Malhotra recalled, noting that she broke down in tears. “It was unreal.”

By the end of it, there were few dry eyes in the room, so it was a hardly a tough decision to post the song online.

Since then, it has become a social media sensation being shared by plenty across the globe and viewed by millions.

“Her grandfather who couldn’t make it (to the wedding) for health reasons saw us on TV,” Grégoire said.

“We are two nerdy people who are always at the hospital, and here we are all over YouTube,” Malhotra added.

The video has reunited them with grade-school friends who had fallen out of touch and also become an object of discussion in India.

“There are people out there who would have wanted to marry someone from a different culture or faith, and they haven’t been able to,” Grégoire said. “If that opens the door for some people to be with the people they like, we feel that is amazing.”

To carry on spreading the love, Malhotra said she and Grégoire are encouraging others to film and post acts of generosity and compassion with the hashtag #ShowYourLove on social media.

“A lot of times we deal with families that didn’t get that last chance to say what they wanted to say and so having Frank done this beautiful thing for me, it motivated me,” Malhotra said. “Even if 100 people tell someone that they love their loved ones, I think it will be really special for us.”