As a director, placing the viewers in the stunning 360 rural landscape of India in which Ramadevi and her father live, was only the starting point for transporting them into their lives. More than that, I wanted to take viewers into Ramadevi’s internal world. This is a world that is not seen, but rather felt, through her starkly intimate and personal voiceover. The intention was to juxtapose the beautiful lush visuals with the unseen, dark reality of her internal life so as to challenge the viewer in a visceral way. I hope by doing so, viewers can also tap into the unspoken within themselves.

Techniques from verbatim theatre were used to create the script that became the voice over. I recorded hours of conversations with Ramadevi and her father. The script was created from these transcripts. I also brought Ramadevi’s best friend, Nagalaxshmi, who is also a sex trafficking survivor, onto the shoot to enable Ramadevi to feel more conformable in opening up to me as a director. It allowed for a more open and vulnerable conversation in which we could all share our stories.

Despite us not speaking the same language, Ramadevi and I bonded over our shared experience of sexual abuse. After each day’s shoot, once the rest of the team had gone to sleep, we would sit on the kitchen floor and talk – laugh to the point that our neighbours would sometimes complain, gossip about Bollywood films I had never seen but also about our shared experiences of sexual abuse. Given I didn’t speak Telegu, and Ramadevi didn’t speak English, we invited our cook, who we also found out through our conversations had her own story of abuse, to translate for us. Our conversations, as women, confiding in each other, came from a place of vulnerability and formed the basis of a relationship between us which was very much honoured in the making of this film. In this respect, the film has very much been made through the female gaze.

Notes To My Father touches on memory and trauma and how these can shape rather than define our lives. It is ultimately a story of survival and an ode to resilience and hope. To bring out these themes, the film took on a poetic and minimalist style to create a deeper emotional impact. The film was edited for tone and with a focus on an emotional journey.

Symbolic shots allow the viewer to interpret and navigate a world that can also be personal to them. Nature and the the weather were further employed to create a visceral mood. Notes To My Father was shot in stereoscopic so that the cloudy skies and rain drops could be accentuated and felt, with the headset on, to further add to the mood of the piece.

Given the themes within the film, I wanted the viewer to experience what it feels like to be a women who is objectified in public in India. Therefore, the scene inside the train carriage shifts focus to become subjective, from Ramadevi’s POV. The viewer sees men staring at them from all four corners. The scene was created to be purposefully claustrophobic so as to give the viewer the urge to find another woman on the train for comfort, without relief. Sound was further used to amplify this feeling of claustrophobia and to make the viewer feel vulnerable, so that they could then emotionally connect with Ramadevi more personally. These POV shots in particular, enable the viewer to feel a sense of presence and immersion within the story.

What interested me the most about Ramadevi and her relationship with her father was the fact that despite their deep love for each other, they had never discussed what Ramadevi had endured. It was that elephant in the room, the sense that at times, we cannot share the things that hurt us with the ones we love the most. It was that use of silence as a misguided sense of protection, that drew me to their story. Though many may not be able to relate to the extreme tragedy of Ramadevi’s trauma, they are invited to find empathy for her through the universal experience of hiding pain from a loved one.

Men’s voices are sorely underrepresented in the discussion surrounding rape and sex trafficking, which I wanted to re-address through the making of this film. The point of view within the film is purposefully empathetic to both perspectives so as to invite both men and women to emotionally connect with the film.

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