Screenings and Venues:
Saturday April 22, 6:30pm, Monday April 24, 6:15pm
Tuesday April 25, 6:15pm, Saturday April 29, 4:45pm
at Cinépolis Chelsea
Section: Documentary Competition
Fair Skinned. Slim. Soft Spoken.
These are the three most desirable qualities that women in India must possess when seeking a husband. And despite all the modern progress that exists for Indian women, a husband is something they must have.
The new documentary A Suitable Girl follows four years in the lives of three young Indian women – Ritu, Dipti, and Amrita – who struggle to maintain their identities and follow their dreams amid the intense pressure from family, friends, and society to get married. All three are highly educated, financially stable, mostly independent, and living a mix of traditional and contemporary values. But the older they get without being married, the more they are scrutinized despite their individual successes. So personal ambitions and career aspirations be damned, they must get married!
So through arranged marriages and an intense matchmaking process, both of which are extremely impersonal, these women pursue their ideal suitors. And the process of swayamvar – finding a husband among a list of suitors – is intense and at times humiliating when the women are rejected, at least to many viewers, feeling kind of like a slave auction, though with stakes that saliently less dire. Or is it? End up with the wrong husband or wife, and that is a burden. And even with one of the women having a mother who is a bona fide matchmaker, the process remains difficult. In showing the other side of the mirror that marriage shows like ABC television’s The Bachelor portray, finding a mate is indeed no fairytale. But as Dipti candidly remarks, “I can’t say that it is fair or unfair, but girls have to take it like this only.”
What is magical however is what directors Sarita Khurana & Smriti Mundhra have provided by making this film.
The nuance used in portraying these women’s lives is seldom seen in cinema, especially on films based in this region. A Suitable Girl is no sob story. It’s not about the slums, or untouchables, or child brides, it’s these three women in their everyday reality showing the stories of this transition in their lives, with a narrative controlled by two Indian women themselves who, as the directors put it, “can relate to their story at every step.” All of these women live to succeed despite the inherent sexism molded into their societies and must figure out how to oppose, conform, or adjust in order to live their lives. While I cannot speak for women, Indian or otherwise, that struggle appears to be a reality for women of all backgrounds.
Finally, there is actual magic in the making of A Suitable Girl. The core team of directors and producers, the editor, composer, cinematographers and graphics artist, is nearly, and intentionally, 100% women of color. That these women came together to accomplish this intimate story is triumphant. What would be more triumphant is the day when this isn’t such a rare feat, but commonplace.
BaL Festival Rating: 5/5
Directors: Sarita Khurana, Smriti Mundhra
Runtime: 97 min.
The 2017 Tribeca Film Festival runs from April 19 – 30 in New York City. #Tribeca2017
Follow Film & TV Editor Curtis Caesar John on Twitter (@MediaManCurt)