Your film shows how one problem—a lack of changing facilities for menstruating girls at school—can lead to a host of other problems, from dropping out of school to child marriage and even domestic violence. Is that sad trajectory a reality for many girls around the world?
Yes, it is. Child marriage around the world is a lot more common than even I expected. Around the world, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18. A third of those marriages take place in India, where I located my story. In India 23 percent of girls drop out of school completely when they start menstruating. Because of the stigma that’s associated with menstruation, it’s not uncommon for girls to face discrimination or violence because of their biology.
In your film, 14-year-old Mitra is kept at home from school during her period. Then her father starts to question the value of her education. He arranges a marriage for her, saying that she needs to fulfill her purpose as a wife and mother. This attitude is still all too prevalent. Is it changing?
Yes, it is changing, thankfully. And it’s not just changing because of initiatives from women. There are plenty of men who are pushing their girls to get an education and be independent. But even if a girl’s father wants her to get an education and be empowered, then it’s her community. And if the community is OK, then it’s going to be someone else on a larger scale. There seems to be a chain of obstacles that are constantly oppressing girls.
Did you make Wash Your Hands of My Blood in British Columbia where you live? How did you make it look like it was shot in India, and how did you find a Hindi-speaking cast?
Yes, we shot the whole film during right here on my university campus, in a 12-hour shoot during a rainstorm. We looked at photos of places in India and tried to replicate them. We had to make it look like it wasn’t shot in Vancouver with our famous rain. To find the actors, my assistant producer, Aakanksha Sahu, reached out to my university’s large Indian community. Next thing I know, people were on my team, advocating for my film and translating it into Hindi. The actress who played Mitra spoke fluent Hindi, but we found out on set that the actor who played her father didn’t speak Hindi, so we had to dub over his lines. The mother’s Hindi was kind of rusty, so over a few hours during the shoot, she had to relearn her mother tongue.
Your film is visually striking. How did you learn cinematography or find good cinematographers?
I have been making films since I was in high school. At some point, I started to notice I was actually really good at, especially at directing and editing. I met a team of talented students that I worked with, and together as a group, we have won awards at other film festivals. I especially love the work of our two cinematographers, who are both studying film.
Do you intend to share your film to spark awareness about these critical intersecting issues?
I want to submit the film to a few more festivals, especially because I really want the amazing cast and crew to get a recognition that they warrant. The actors did a phenomenal job. They were theater actors who hadn’t acted in film before.
I also want to share my film with other filmmakers, to show them that this is something that they can do, too. Making a film is a way to be creative, but it is also a platform to raise your voice and advocate for change. With a film you can raise awareness and spread a message, and you can inspire so many other people. I just stumbled upon the ConnectHER Film Festival, and I’m so grateful. It’s right up my alley, and I feel like the experience was so empowering.