Dir.: Elisa Paloschi; Documentary; Canada 2015, 74 min.
Elisa Paloschi’s uplifting documentary looks at the life of Selvi, the first female taxi driver in South India, chronicling her way from abused child bride to independence – and a licence to drive buses and HGVs. The film also offers a glimpse of rural life in India, far away from the modern images projected by the state agencies.
A month after having her first period, and in her last year at school, Selvi was forced by her parents to marry an unknown man. But Selvi’s family were poor, and in the absence of a dowry, the man pimped his wife out, to make the money he thought he deserved. Depressed, Selvi decided to throw herself under a bus, but at the last minute finds her fighting spirit. And does so with help of the Odanadi Organisation, which helps child brides and other repressed women to enable themselves to earn a decent living. Selvi learns to drive (the director’s vehicle ends up in a ditch during the learning process), and becomes the first female taxi driver in the city of Karnatuka. Selvi then goes on to find happiness with her second husband, Viji (who is also a professional driver), and makes a success of her life in more ways than one.
Apart from making the film, Elisa Paloschi is very much Selvi’s enabler and mentor who charts the young woman’s progress in some heart-breaking scenes that clearly show how female subjugation begins in the family unit and goes on into the workplace: when Selvi meets her aunt, the only relative who cared for her, it emerges that her mother did not even bother to feed her, giving all her love to her brother – who, having married her off, called her a whore. But Selvi’s story is full of hope as she is positive and very adamant about the future for her daughter “she will be my legacy, she will get everything I didn’t. One day, I might tell her my story”.
A simple but life-affirming documentary which tells the story of an exceptional woman, one of 700 million child brides, of which 250 million are under the age of fifteen – a third are living in India alone. AS
SCREENING AT BERTHA DOCHOUSE from 7 OCTOBER 2016
The film was described by the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) as “… a tragic and poignant yet also energetic and inspirational portrait of an extremely tough Indian woman.”