The World Before Her
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The World Before Her

For these Indian women, the future isn't friendly.

DIRECTED BY NISHA PAHUJA (Canada, Germany, US, UK, Canadian Spectrum)


Wednesday, May 2, 7 p.m.
Isabel Bader Theatre (93 Charles Street West)

Saturday, May 5, 9:30 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 1 (350 King Street West)

Sunday, May 6, 11 a.m.
Isabel Bader Theatre (93 Charles Street West)

Unlike the festival’s blurb for The World Before Her, which suggests the women in the film find “freedom from the constraints of a patriarchal society,” director Nisha Pahuja is less certain of the outcome. And rightly so.

The film moves between two groups of women: the final contestants for Miss India 2009, and girls participating in training camps for a militant wing of Hindu extremists (this was the first time a film crew has been allowed in to observe). While both groups are indeed seeking self-affirmation, the film captures the paradox of their claims to liberation. In one scene a Miss India contestant speaks of her mother’s bravery in leaving her father after he suggested female infanticide, in the next we see another contestant walking down a Veet-sponsored runway with a sheet over her face and torso so only her legs may be judged. At the training camp young women speak of empowerment through self-defense one moment, and the next they make casual reference to physical abuse at the hands of their fathers.

Whether the title is a reference to the world which came prior or the one that is to come, the outcome is ultimately grim; either way the women are attempting to work within patriarchal systems that leave them few options. As one Hindu woman remarks when asked why she is fighting for something that controls her, she replies: “Being a girl, you can’t do anything. So I have to.”

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