Movie Review: ‘India’s Daughter’ Is A Visceral And Disturbing Examination Of India’s Rape Culture

Review by Andrew Wertz

India’s Daughter is a raw and shocking documentary that is a part of BBC’s Storyville series, which distributes groundbreaking documentaries from around the world. India’s Daughter tells the story of Jyoti Singh, a young medical student who was brutally raped and murdered in Delhi. The documentary moves quickly in its story runtime, showing the audience Singh’s life, the horrifying details of the crime, and India’s outrage.

The documentary is incredibly visceral and powerful. While the film does not show any images of the horrific crime, the film graphically describes Singh’s fatal injuries. Despite only being an hour, the documentary has a huge scope, showing the protests and riots that student unions organized in reaction to the murder, and explores India’s culture of misogyny. For Western audiences, the reality of being a woman in India is startling and deeply upsetting.

Many of the interview subjects detail not only the rape culture of the country, but describe the often horrifying treatment of woman. The subjects come from both sides of an issue. The accused rapist’s’ lawyer adamantly asserts his opinion that Singh brought the rape upon herself by seeing a movie at night with her boyfriend. The film’s most shocking scenes show interviews with Jyoti’s rapists and killers, who openly discuss their role in the crime and even defend it. Although the scenes are disturbing and upsetting, director Leslee Udwin lets the statements speak on their own. The documentary succeeds at simply presenting the case to audiences and letting them form their own perspective on the story.

At times, the film is overwhelmed by the scope of the issue in contrast to its short runtime. The documentary attempts to show Jyoti Singh as a person, detail her brutal murder, show both sides of the debate around the issue, and show worldwide issues facing women. Director Leslee Udwin also attempts to grapple with issues like the death penalty, prosecution of young criminals, and show India’s women’s rights and poverty issues. The documentary moves much too quickly to fully display the numerous topics in the film.

India’s Daughter often suffers from a disorganized style that makes the film quite confusing at times with the barrage of names and events thrown at the audience. With so many issues being covered at such a rapid pace, the documentary struggles to delve into any of the issues at great depth. Even its coverage of Jyoti Singh feels rather rushed, as the audience never even sees an image of the young medical student. It’s a minor detail that may have been for legal reasons, but it is still distracting and makes its subject more distant. The film often struggles to balance Singh’s singular story with the protests and the worldwide issues in its hour runtime.

Despite the film’s pacing issues and storytelling shortcomings, India’s Daughter is a powerful and eye-opening documentary. Although its graphic content is not for the faint of heart, the documentary exposes a serious and deeply unnerving issue that not only faces India, but the world at a whole. The film ends on a jarring and somber note, with a scroll displaying statistics on violence against women around the world. India’s Daughter exposes a worldwide issue, although it often struggles with clearly displaying huge scope of the issues at hand.

Opening in NY – October 23rd | Village East
Opening in LA – October 30th | Sundance Sunset Theater

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