Independent Canadian filmmaker Nisha Pahuja’s ‘To Kill a Tiger’ and Indian filmmaker Vinay Shukla’s ‘While We Watched’ (or ‘Namaskar! Main Ravish Kumar’) both won Amplify Voice Awards at TIFF.

A scene from Nisha Pahuja’s ‘To Kill a Tiger’A scene from To Kill a Tiger | Image courtesy: TIFF
Flix TIFF 2022 Tuesday, September 20, 2022 - 12:54

As the 47th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) came to a close on Sunday, September 18, two India-based movies bagged top honours for their directors for bravely taking up challenging subjects. Independent Canadian filmmaker Nisha Pahuja’s To Kill a Tiger and Indian filmmaker Vinay Shukla’s While We Watched (or Namaskar! Main Ravish Kumar) both won Amplify Voice Awards.

To Kill a Tiger is a documentary, made with the help of the National Film Board of Canada, that took 8 years to shoot. The film tells the story of a 13-year-old girl from a poor family in a village in Jharkhand who is brutally gang-raped. The family struggles to find justice against all odds. The authorities, be it the police or the village panchayat, have no solution to offer than to get the survivor married to one of the rapists in order to save the dignity of the family. Everyone finds fault with the family for allowing the girl to mingle with men at midnight at a wedding function.

Some NGOs and volunteers come forward to help the family members from the ostracism they face in their village. Their concerted efforts bring justice to the family with the criminals getting long prison terms. While the film crew is seen constantly trying to get to the truth, they undergo a host of threats and challenges from the local community. In the end, there are smiles on the faces of the family members and the survivor is seen rising up and going ahead with her education.

Nisha Pahuja, who migrated from Delhi to Canada as a child, has earlier directed documentaries like Bollywood Bound, Diamond Road and The World Before Her. The jury selected To Kill a Tiger for the Amplify Voice Award for Best Canadian film citing: “It’s not easy to film love. In Nisha Pahuja’s To Kill A Tiger, a father defends his daughter, and together they change a village, a country and maybe the world.”

While We Watched fetched Vinay Shukla the Amplify Voice Award for best feature by a BIPOC filmmaker for his documentary on Indian TV channel NDTV’s bold stand against the policies of the current Indian government through its group editor and veteran journalist Ravish Kumar. The journo declares, “My primary job is to ask the most difficult questions to those in power.” The film discusses the challenges faced by independent media in the world’s biggest democracy. Ravish has received the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award twice and won the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2019. The TIFF jury citation said: “While We Watched is a compelling, urgent film that collapses our differences. It’s a wake-up call to how perilous and fragile the relationship between a free press and democracy is everywhere.”

Steven Spielberg’s semi-biographical film The Fabelmans won the People’s Choice Award, the biggest compliment for a filmmaker at TIFF. Spielberg reflects on his childhood days in Arizona where he discovered his love for filmmaking. The film tells the story of Sammy Fabelman, who is based on Spielberg, enacted by Canadian actor Gabriel LaBelle.

Sarah Polley’s Women Talking and Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery won the second and third place respectively in the People’s Choice category.

The Whale, Black Ice, Pearl, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, The Blackening, Maya and the Wave, 752 Is Not a Number, Riceboy Sleeps, Snow in September, Same Old, Nanitic, Sweet As, Viking, Leonard Will Never Die, A Gaza Weekend, Something You Said Last Week, Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On, AirHostess-737, Simo are some of the films that won awards in various categories.

There were 250 films in the features category as well as in documentaries and about 20 short films in this year’s festival. TIFF continues its activities year-long, although the festival has ended.

Suresh Nellikode has written fiction for Malayalam periodicals like Mathrubhumi and Kalakaumudi. He’s also been a contributor for The New Indian Express and Khaleej Times. He currently lives in Canada.

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