I first met Kushbu in 2014 through a film I was commissioned to make about the Red Brigade, a vigilante group fighting the prevalent gang rape culture in Utter Pradesh, India. Whilst the other girls in the group were confident and loud, Kushbu seemed lost and far removed from her surroundings. I recognized this emotion as something I myself experienced in the aftermath of my own rape and was immediately drawn to her.

Despite us not speaking the same language, Kushbu and I connected through our shared experience. Although our individual circumstances are vastly different, our conversations, as women, came from a place of empathy and beyond that, one of solidarity. This lead to an emotional and experiential filmmaking process.

I wanted to take viewers into Kushbu’s internal world. This is a world that is not seen, but rather felt. Fires, heavy fog, and dark forests, color the vast expanses of pristine land, serving as an outward manifestation of Kusbu’s inner pain. The intention was to juxtapose the stunning rural landscapes of Utter Pradesh, with the dark reality of her internal life, in order to challenge the viewer in a visceral way.

Circle took over three years to complete. Given it is a delicate subject matter, I knew I had to take time to represent it correctly. My own changing identity in those three years inevitably changed the frame with which I saw Kushbu’s story. Ironically, it was the political climate in the West that forced me to see Kushbu’s circumstances and her grandmothers role within them, in a new light.

As a woman of colour living in the West, I began to see how I had internalized racism in the past in order to survive it. This personal experience enabled me to understand how women in Kushbu’s region had internalized misogyny in order to survive a deeply patriarchal society. In the rural villages near where she lived, I asked, older women why they think her grandmother would have done such a thing. Many said words to the effect of ‘She did it because it was done to her. We women deserve to be hated.’

The film is intentionally steeped in specificity so as to remain honest and authentic to the story and place it was filmed in. The small details of rural life serve as an allegory for the patriarchy and internalized misogyny within the region, whilst the music, made up of purely organic India sounds steep the film in its cultural habitat. The film took on a minimalist approach which was stripped of any outward sentimentality so as to honor the cultural nuances of the region. This was important for me to do so that the viewer could see Kushbu’s world from her perspective rather than theirs.

I want the viewer to see Kushbu’s life through her own lens, rather than ours, so that we can appreciate the incredible amount of strength and resilience she embodies. In this way, the film attempts to show what the Meetoo conversation can look like from the perspective of a woman of color in rural India.

The fact that Khushboo and her family’s individual stories are all connected and interwined means that it is easy for the audience to get lost in their story. I want them to experience this confusion so that their instinct can take over and they can let themselves go. In doing so, I hope they can confront themselves with their own stories, in the same way hearing Khushbu’s story made me confront mine.

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