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.

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