In American we take for granted the simple freedoms we enjoy on a daily basis. We are free to speak and act out as we like, free to love whom we want, free to worship and practice any type of religion without persecution, However, in India the word “freedom” has a whole new meaning – UnFreedom.
UNFREEDOM, by director raj Amit Kumar slays us with two powerful and contemporary stories about religious fundamentalism and intolerance. Shifting between New York and New Delhi, one tale follows a Muslim terrorist who kidnaps a liberal Muslim scholar in order to silence him, while the other charts the travails of a young woman whose devout father tries to force her into an arranged marriage, which she resists because she is secretly in love with another woman. The four characters come face to face with gruesome acts of violence in battles of identity, sexuality, religion, love, and family.
Recently, UNFREEDOM was banned in India by the Censor Board of Film Certification (CBFC), which rendered much of its content too controversial for general audiences. Kumar is mounting an appeal and simultaneously launching a crowd-funding campaign to finance a release in India via alternative methods. Homosexuality was re-criminalized in India in 2013 and incidents of rape have been escalating. In addition, for more than a decade, India has been mired in the politics of religious violence between Hindus and Muslims.
Un-Freedom is a very powerful film and moved me to the core. Being a straight woman, I couldn’t possibly imagine a world in which my father would be so distraught over my desire to love a woman – that he would have me meet with a fate that is unimaginable. Or imagine you are a well respected professor who has pissed off some radicals who would do anything to silence your voice. Or live a world where you are persecuted and tortured for simply being friends with someone who is gay.
The world I don’t want to imagine is a everyday occurrence for those in India and many other countries. The next time you want to complain about that person in traffic who is going too slow or that one friend who seems to be just a little over the top…think about those who don’t have a choice.
Every one of the actors in this piece are extraordinary and my hat goes off to them for tackling a project that could potentially throw a wrench in their careers.
UnFreedom opens TODAY at Laemmle in North Hollywood and you would be doing yourself a HUGE service by checking it out.
I had the opportunity to speak with directors raj Amit Kumar about Un-Freedom, his next project Black Boots, his feelings regarding progress in India with the LGBT community and his feelings on the controversial rape scene.