THE WORLD BEFORE HER
(Nisha Pahuja, Canada, Germany, USA, UK). 90 minutes. Subtitled. Rating: In Nisha Pahuja’s brilliant study of women’s choices in modern India, two vastly different movements claim to promote female empowerment. One is the Miss India pageant, the other the women’s branch of militant fundamentalist Hinduism.
Pahuja got unprecedented access to both. Backstage at the pageant, young women who yearn for stardom go through the paces of objectification; the competition’s legs component will blow your mind.
But don’t assume the Hindu militants are training young women into a life of servility. Yes, eventually, they’ll marry and make meals for their husbands. But right now they’re learning to use guns and to hate Christians and Muslims.
Nor are these young women unsophisticated. When asked if she isn’t sacrificing her cultural roots by entering the pageant, one hopeful retorts, “Do you ask Americans who are doing yoga if they’re being Indianized?”
And the passionate leader of the militant youth movement – a latent lesbian if I ever saw one – knows she’s not exactly fitting in.
Don’t miss it. May 2, 7 pm, Isabel Bader Theatre; May 5, 9: 30 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 1; May 6, 11 am, Isabel Bader Theatre.