In September 2018, the Supreme Court of India overturned a centuries-old ban on women entering the sacred Sabarimala temple located in the state of Kerala. Instead of rejoicing in their equal status, women of Kerala came out in unprecedented numbers to protest against the verdict, vowing not to enter the temple. Through the Sabarimala conflict, This Documentary tries to understand the crossroads that women’s rights movement is at right now in India.
Framed through the lens of the ongoing Sabarimala conflict,The Road to Sabarimala is an intimate, image-driven look into the complicated issue of women’s rights in India today.
We will examine different perspectives on women’s equality through our subjects and scenes from their lives: a group of women who hope to make the pilgrimage to Sabarimala, a female-led prayer session, a young artist/activist and more. Throughout the film, there will be glimpses of life as a woman in Kerala: a mother dressing her young daughter in an traditional silk dress, a conversation between an elderly grandmother and her caretaker, a fisherwoman gutting and scaling fish on the side of the road. These images and scenes will function as abstract representations of centuries-old literature, religious traditions, and societal expectations around a woman’s role.
The film will be shot in the intimate style of cinema verite, focusing on the specificities of being a woman in Kerala. Instead of conducting formal interviews with our subjects or didactically explaining concepts, we hope to take our audience on an introspective, emotional journey through female traditions, relationships, and identities within Kerala. Our camerawork will bring the audience close to our subjects, emulating the intimate, observational style seen in documentaries like Hale County, This Morning This Evening and All this Panic.
why does this film matter?
In the last few years, conversations about the harassment and abuse Indian women deal with have become more common. A new wave of activism led by Indian women has been largely successful in fighting against inexcusable offenses like child marriages and rape. However, it’s the issues that come into contact with religion that are harder to talk about, let alone advocate for.
The conflict at Sabarimala is one of these issues. Instead of ignoring the religious aspect, and treating this as solely a women’s rights issue, we’re attempting to look at the conflict from multiple, interconnected perspectives. We’re starting from scratch and abandoning all our ideas of what it means to be a woman, and letting the subjects of our film guide us to a new understanding. Most documentaries about India are steeped in stereotypes and generalities. This film shies away from those; it’s a sensitive, multi-dimensional portrait of Indian women at a crossroads. I’ve always believed that social change comes from listening to people’s stories and trying to understand their experiences; by supporting this film, you’re playing an important role in making that change possible.