Have you ever seen the face of a woman who spends her days waiting to die? You’ll see close-ups of many such faces in Veil of Tears, a new documentary that uncovers what one Indian woman calls “the darkest side of our country”: the bitter, lifelong oppression of women in India, all for the crime of being born female.
Veil of Tears, directed and produced by award-winning filmmaker brothers Kenny and Kyle Saylors (Kimjongilia), is meant to make you squirm and gasp until you feel charged with the desire to do something. At times, it feels like a promotional piece for its sponsor, Gospel for Asia (GFA), a mission organization that supports indigenous missionaries from West Africa to East Asia. But the 90-minute film successfully depicts—with powerful human stories, shocking statistics, and gripping imageries—why mission work in India is so important.
Here are some of the atrocities still happening in a country with one of the world’s largest and fastest growing economies: Husbands pass wives from neighbor to neighbor for prostitution that pays for the husbands’ gambling and drink. Suicide rates among women in India are 21 times the average rate worldwide. In 2010, there were 8,391 confirmed dowry-related deaths. Every hour, a husband burns his bride alive. About 46 million widows languish in mud-caked slums, banished by in-laws because a wife bears the blame for her husband’s early death. Gender-selected abortion and infanticide are common; India has 37 million more men than women.
Despite the heavy subject, the film bursts with the rich colors of saris, the cheers of waving children, and realistic snippets of daily life: flies crawling over toes and noses, women washing clothes on a communal river while naked kids wade and splash, and even a shot of two men tussling and pulling hair on the back of a pickup truck. In between such shots, GFA missionaries and founder K.P. Yohannan explain why there’s a persisting disconnect between Indian government efforts to eradicate inequality and the thousands-year-old caste system and gender discrimination—and how the gospel of Christ can bring transforming change.
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by Sophia Lee
Mitt Romney picks up trash and always makes sure the lights are turned off. He good-naturedly lets his wife muss up his hair. He laughs out loud when his sons tackle him in the snow and dab frosting on his face.
These are some of many candid and classic moments revealed in Mitt, a Netflix documentary about the twice-failed presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney. Filmmaker Greg Whiteley, a Mormon like Romney and clearly sympathetic to the Romneys, skips through the nitty-gritties of policy framing and campaign strategizing to show Mitt as a funny, regular family man who laughs at defecation jokes and irons his own cuffs.
Those anecdotal montages layer with key campaign moments and family conversations to portray the election campaign as a vicious, physically and emotionally agonizing boxing ring of identity seeking, identity branding, and identity smearing. His son Josh exclaims in frustration, “This is so awful. You always hear about, ‘Oh, why can’t we get someone good to run for President?’ This is why! ... For goodness sakes, here’s a brilliant guy ... and we just get beat up constantly. ... And you just think, ‘Man, is this worth it?’”
Before Romney decided to run for president, he made a “pros-and-cons” list with his whole family. Daughter-in-law Jennifer says, “I think the con would be that you’ll be president. Who wants to have to be president?” The family voices concerns about stress and public bias, already aware that being a Mormon plutocrat won’t score popularity. Josh quips, “You’d be bald in about a month.”
Romney kept his hair, but Mitt echoes Jennifer’s initial sentiment: “Who actually wants to be president?” Because the campaign is just the first hurdle to an uphill battle that exposes and chaps raw the whole family. Mitt doesn’t just humanize Romney. It humanizes every candidate, every spouse, parent, child, and sibling who stuck beside the person on the way to become the most powerful face—and sometimes bull’s-eye—of America.
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Little Hope was Arson: The Collaborate & Goodnight Smoke
Little Hope Was Arson
by Angela Lu Fulton
A woman stands in front of the smoldering ruins of her East Texas church speaking to a reporter: “The building houses so many memories, my great-grandmother went here, my grandparents. I got married here, both of my daughters were baptized here.”
It’s January 2010 and 10 churches in East Texas have been set on fire, leaving entire towns grappling with loss and confusion. Little Hope Was Arson, a documentary currently playing in the Slamdance Film Festival, examines these events from the police investigation to the church members’ response to the arrest and imprisonment of the convicted arsonists. By the closing scene, not only the buildings but the church communities would be tested by fire.
Through news clips and interviews, the film portrays the initial anger, sorrow, and fear of the small-town residents as their sanctuaries burned. Pastors feared for their lives, and church members staked out in front of their churches with guns in tow. In the meantime, law enforcement combed through the ruins looking for clues. Finally a tip pointed them to two young men, one of whom was the brother of Christy McAllister, the law enforcement communications director. She helped turn him in.
The film then turns to look at the lives of Daniel McAllister, then 21, and Jason Bourque, then 19, who met in Sunday school. Daniel grew resentful toward God when his mother died and his father tried committing suicide. Jason also left the church after a breakup, falling into depression and drug use. The two men pled guilty to the fires and were sentenced to life in prison.
Yet the strongest point of the film was watching the church’s response in finding out the culprit was one of their own. At their sentence hearing, one pastor asked the boys to forgive them for any way the church had wronged them, as they forgive the boys. Many of the pastors said the boys were welcomed into the churches they have rebuilt.
It’s a wonder for a film–especially one shown in indie film festivals–to portray such a genuine image of forgiveness.