The Cove is a 2010 Academy Award winning documentary which I watched a few months ago. It exposes cruel dolphin hunting practices in the small Japanese town of Taiji and it follows the efforts of Ric O’ Barry, a former dolphin trainer who in the 1970s actually captured and trained the dolphins used in the TV show Flipper. He had a change of opinion regarding dolphin captivity through his experiences which led him to declare that dolphins are unable to be happy in captivity. Much of the endeavor required secret filming which shows in graphic detail the gruesome harpooning of several thousand dolphins that are lured and trapped in a small cove every year from September to April. Continue reading
I recently watched the movie Bol by Pakistani director Shoaib Mansoor and was quite impressed by it’s ability to entertain while simultaneously and powerfully presenting several social issues flagrant in South Asia. The title “Bol” is a Hindi/Urdu command meaning “Speak” or “Speak Out” and refers to the movie’s main message, which is that women’s voices need to be heard (ideally by the legal system), and that anachronistic and androcentric oppression must end. While this sounds cliche, the movie doesn’t make it feel that way. Continue reading
It’s been slightly over two months since Kony 2012 (I was going to hyperlink to it, but realized, if you haven’t seen it yet, you probably don’t have internet) first awed, inspired, angered, and exhausted different parts of the world. I was one of the 80 million+ people who saw the film (and blogged about it), and I’m one of probably a few thousand who are wondering what is going on now with the campaign. Continue reading
Following the 84th Academy Awards, I was once again reminded of the power of films. Good films take the viewer into another world and make that world a reality for those precious 100 minutes. Many might agree that Blood Diamond was one such movie, bringing us into a clashing scene of African civil war, the smuggling of precious stones across borders, the covert corporate corruption in the West, and the inhumane transformation of children into soldiers. Five years have passed since Blood Diamond was released, and for most, the tale of refugee Solomon Vandy (Djimon Honsou) and diamond smuggler Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a memorable drama which reminds us not to buy diamonds mined from conflict zones.
All names have been changed, the characters are untraceable as the original storyteller was a stranger to me, but the story is true and I wish it wasn’t.
A young girl named Luisa came to Los Angeles when she was 12 years old from Honduras. She is the grand-daughter of a woman, Angela, who works in a family friend’s home as a domestic worker. Angela is also from Honduras and her only daughter was killed because of extreme domestic violence from an alcoholic husband. Luisa is the child of Angela’s deceased daughter. Angela eventually saved enough money from her low-wage job to pay a coyote to bring Luisa across the border, and Luisa moved in with her uncle Alfredo, Angela’s son. Alfredo, his wife Anna, and their two children, Victor and Susie, are all undocumented immigrants and live each day with the fear of being sent back to Honduras where the Mara Salvatrucha gang has destroyed their neighborhood. Alfredo is very hardworking and struggles long hours in a minimum wage job at a fastfood restaurant while Anna cleans houses in wealthy neighborhoods 7 days a week. Continue reading
I had the privilege of attending a private screening of Saving Face, the winner of Sunday night’s Oscar for Best Documentary (Short Subject), followed by a Q & A with one of the directors, Daniel Junge, and one of the documentary’s protagonists, Dr. Mohammad Jawad, a British-Pakistani plastic surgeon whose work the film revolves around. On a quick side note, Dr. Jawad was the also the surgeon who operated on British model and acid victim Katie Piper who recently had her eye sight restored through stem cell therapy. In short, Saving Face is about Dr. Jawad’s journey back to his home land of Pakistan where he works to reconstruct the faces of women who have suffered acid attacks by their husbands, other males of close relation, and sometimes even other women. The reasons cited by attackers in many of the countries where acid violence is an issue are multifold- refusal by the women to accept unwanted marriage proposals, basic petty arguments in the house over minor issues, and even attempts to simply pursue education as a woman. The film interviews several survivors of these attacks, mostly women from rural areas, and focuses on two main characters, Zakia and Rukhsana, who are both victims. One of the sub-plots includes Zakia’s court case against her husband which she eventually wins through the application of a recently passed Pakistani bill that sentences between 14 years and life in prison, as well as a $14,000 fine for men who are perpetrators of acid attacks. Throughout the documentary, several women’s faces are shown, most of which are gruesomely deformed from the attacks and consistently elicited waves of shocked gasps from the audience. I whole-heartedly applaud Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (the other director) for giving these women a voice to the rest of the world, and to Dr. Jawad for using his plastic surgery skills for something other than breast implants (which he says he also does quite well in the documentary). The government of Pakistan, elated at the indirect receipt of an Oscar, has also declared that Ms. Chinoy will be presented with Pakistan’s highest civil award upon her return. Continue reading
*Note: Guardian consent was acquired prior to posting this video.
In my past international experiences, I’ve encountered numerous cultural practices that have been curious and fascinating, from using chickens to ward off evil energy in India to eating fried grasshoppers as delicacies in Uganda to entertaining the wisdom of magical sobadores in Nicaragua. However, for the first time, I have come across a “cultural” practice which I am particularly at odds with.
Around India, there are castes which traditionally engage in familial, intergenerational prostitution. Starting from around age 13, girls are married and subsequently prostituted by their husbands and parents. Earnings can be as high as $100 USD per hour, more than what many professionals in America will make in the same amount of time. For an uneducated villager whose only other job option is cheap manual labor, the potential earnings through prostitution are without a realistic monetary alternative. Unfortunately, the money goes directly in the hands of the husbands who don’t work at all, instead playing cards and drinking throughout the day.