07 Jun Docs in Sight: A Spring Festival Doc Roundup (Brooklyn Rail)

Shame film by Mohammed Naqvi“Naqvi both calls upon and confronts his own Pakistani heritage in order to understand this story in context…

…In the summer of 2002, the younger brother of Pakistani villager Mukhtaran Mai was accused of a crime, and the village’s tribal council approved a punishment to be taken against Mai herself. It’s unclear what the sanctioned punishment to be delivered actually was; but Mai was gang-raped and then held on display before her townspeople. The traditional response for a woman thus “shamed” in Mai’s culture is suicide—but Mai decided to seek justice through the courts, stating that she would rather “go out fighting” than harm herself or cower in fear. This first documentary feature from director Mohammed Naqvi could just as aptly have been called “Courage,” or perhaps “Strength”: Rejecting the shame she’s told must be hers, Mai becomes a model of determination and grace as the film explores a social/political system in which our access is generally limited. Naqvi both calls upon and confronts his own Pakistani heritage in order to understand this story in context: The film’s title refers not only to the shame Mai was told to accept but to the shame of a culture that views and treats women (and particularly women from poorer families) in this manner. He conveys the narrative with depth and true sensitivity, bringing us along as Mai is celebrated by human-rights groups (and attendant celebrities) internationally while facing death threats—and the overturning of her attackers’ verdict—at home. All the while, she refuses to falter. “If you can help me get justice,” she tells the court before her initial trial, “then I am ready…”

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