For the first time in years, I found my toes literally curling in fear during a film. My stomach was in knots and my knees were drawn up to my chest. The film was 'The Whistleblower', set in post-war Bosnia and based on true events. One scene was especially difficult to watch. A young woman was raped in front of many others – to teach her a lesson for trying to escape and as a warning to the rest. Yet, there was no lust involved. The film makes it quite clear that this brutality is essentially about money and power. Half-way through the film, I began to wonder if the director was a woman.
What was happening to those girls was torture and it communicated itself as torture. The camera focussed a lot on the girls' faces but it did not shy away from the violence done to them. I went online later to confirm my suspicion. Indeed, the director turned out to be a woman, Larysa Kondracki, who wrote the script along with Eilis Kirwan.
How and why did I start thinking about the gender of the director?
Read the rest of this essay on how sexual violence and gender stereotypes play out in cinema, and the question of how women filmmakers in India hope to hold up a mirror to society if their work carefully avoids the rampant sexual violence in our society.