In the 2014 film Dukhtar, Afia Nathaniel tells the story of Allah Rakhi, a woman who kidnaps her ten-year-old daughter, Zainab, in a desperate attempt to save her from an arranged marriage to a violent tribal leader. Rakhi remembers her own marriage to a much older man when she was a teenager. Subsequently, her husband prevented her from communicating with her mother ever again. While this loss was made explicit in the film, others are only implied. In a scene between Rakhi and Zainab, mother hovers over a blood stain on her wedding dress as she realizes how little her daughter knows about her future.
The two escape through the mountains of Pakistan aided only by a passing truck driver. The truck driver’s motives for helping them are not made clear until later in the story and offer a compelling look at the complexities of the society. I believe films like these offer viewers an opportunity to make connections between seemingly disparate cultures and their own. Patriarchy has many faces all over the world, misogyny being the common thread. This film is streaming on YouTube and Netflix.
In A Light Beneath Their Feet, director Valerie Weiss (Losing Control and Transgressions) brings to life the story of high-schooler, Beth, and her young mother, Gloria. The roles of mother and child are reversed as Beth attempts to care for her mother who struggles with bipolar disorder. Taryn Manning gives a wonderful performance as the vulnerable Gloria and Madison Davenport is excellent as the parentified child, struggling to find her own way in the world. The story is sure to strike a chord with anyone who’s ever dealt with mental illness or the parenting of their own parents. Moira McMahon, who’s previous work includes episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, was both the writer and an executive producer for the film. The movie is streaming on Netflix.
Writer and director, Mia Donovan invites viewers to examine the complex phenomenon of cults in her documentary film Deprogrammed. She follows the story of revolutionary and controversial deprogrammer Ted Patrick who began “rescuing” young cult members in the 70s at the behest of their families. While the good and bad of cults and brainwashing may seem straight forward, Donovan offers multiple perspectives in her film. Current and former cult members and leaders were interviewed, sharing their experiences with the cults and with Ted Patrick. Even former cult members who were thankful for Patrick’s interventions had mixed feelings about his methods which included kidnapping.
Donovan’s personal interest in the subject matter seemed to stem from her brother’s encounter with Mr. Patrick when he was a teenager. Donovan’s brother was not truly in need of deprogramming but was struggling immensely and expressed that struggle through identification with Satanism. Donovan offers a sensitive and engrossing look at a very complex issue and leaves viewers with much to think about after the film has ended. Deprogrammed can be viewed on Netflix.