In 2005, while interviewing survivors of honour crimes and forced marriages, I found I was recording stories that I couldn't tell, not in a documentary form. Not without endangering the lives of the young women who were placing their trust in me. In some cases, the girls would contact me later to beg me not to include this detail or that name. The horror of what they went through, underage girls forced by their own parents into marrying much older men, did not quite get established. Also, as a documentary on limited release in one territory, the film did not have as widespread an impact as would be ideal. Hopefully, THE SACRIFICE is the short, sharp message that this issue needs.
It is based on the story of one teenage girl from East London, whose elder sister intervened and helped her to escape from a hellish situation. They had been forcibly married and held captive in a tiny village deep in rural Bangladesh. It was through remarkable courage and determination that they escaped. Their conviction that what had been done to them was wrong was crucial to them persevering. In THE SACRIFICE, Leila has help from her older sister, RUKHSANA, and the support of her girlfriend, MARGOT.
Let me come right out and say that this is a tremendously polarising issue, in the South Asian community most of all. Which is mystifying to me, since Forced Marriage is not unique to the cultures of South Asia but occurs across the world. From the Middle East to Africa, and yes even in North America. Like I previously experienced with my documentary ('For Love or Izzat' 2005) this is a difficult subject to make a film about. Not least because the very people you are trying to help can place insurmountable obstacles in your path. For instance, I was supposed to have a huge cast of extras, dancers from a Bollywood dance troupe and support from Asian companies. When it became apparent that the primary message wasn't going to change, all the help just... evaporated. I was, however, blessed with support from the wonderfully enlightened Directors UK and from the champions of true cinema, ARRI. They provided the impetus that brought together a committed crew of strong-willed women and super-supportive men who made this incredibly difficult shoot possible.
In response to those who were confused about the very young protagonist of The Sacrifice, a child bride at 13, this does actually still happen. Yes, even in Britain. Sadly, as oppressive cultures have discovered to their advantage, you can only force a girl into a marriage she doesn't want when she is very young. In places like the impoverished parts of Yemen or war-torn Syria or Afghanistan, this means very... very young. There are powerful socio-economic factors at play here that only change at the grassroots level will eradicate. I was however, saddened to learn that child marriage is on the rise in Bangladesh, where progress has been made in so many other areas (for instance, I am still impressed by Grameen Bank) and yet a woman's contribution to society means so little that she is better off married to a much older man than finishing her education or finding a job. Of course, educated Bengalis will tell you it is just as common across the border, in India, and in Pakistan. Altogether, there is a lot of finger pointing going on and not enough being done to STOP this practice.
Directors UK and ARRI present The TRINITY CHALLENGE 2020
Inaugural Screening at the VUE WESTEND, Leicester Square, London
January 23rd, 2020
OFFICIAL SELECTION at LIFF (LONDON INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL) 2020.
SCREENING: Shorts Block 6, Friday, 20th March 6:00PM
The Genesis Cinema, Bethnal Green, London