Documentaries by Deepa Dhanraj

Documentaries by Deepa Dhanraj

8 Episodes

Deepa Dhanraj’s films are decolonial feminism in action. A filmmaker whose intersectional view of gender oppression and collaborative approach to documentary were far ahead of their time, Dhanraj has dealt frankly with issues of class, caste, labor, patriarchy, and state violence over the course of a long and fiercely engaged career. In 1980, she founded the Yugantar Film Collective along with cinematographer Navroze Contractor, activist Abha Bhaiya, and writer Meera Rao, and the group went on to create a series of works that spoke to working-class women’s experiences, struggles, and strategies of resistance within Indian society. Curated by Devika Girish, this series brings the Yugantar films together with some of Dhanraj’s later documentaries, all of them invaluable, on-the-ground records of India’s feminist movement that still serve as models for how to forge a vital activist cinema.

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Documentaries by Deepa Dhanraj
  • Maid Servant

    Episode 1

    Directed by Yugantar • 1981 • India

    This portrait of female solidarity in action exposes the oppressive working conditions of hundreds of maidservants in Pune, India, and reveals how the women came together to form an organization to fight for their rights.

  • Tobacco Embers

    Episode 2

    Directed by Yugantar • 1982 • India

    In the spirit of mobilizing for the leftist labor and women’s movements, the Yugantar collective spent four months with female tobacco factory workers in Nipani, Karnataka, listening to their accounts of exploitative working conditions, discussing strategies f...

  • Is This Just a Story?

    Episode 3

    Directed by Yugantar • 1983 • India

    The Yugantar Film Collective’s most successful and widely seen film sheds light on the issue of domestic violence in Indian society. Created in collaboration with the feminist activist collective Stree Shakhti Sanghatana, this short, improvised narrative film ...

  • Sudesha

    Episode 4

    Directed by Yugantar • 1983 • India

    SUDESHA tells the story of a woman who is a village activist in the Chipko Forest Conservation Movement in the foothills of the Himalayas. In this area, people depend entirely on the forest for their daily needs of firewood, food, and water. But the forests ha...

  • What Happened to This City?

    Episode 5

    Directed by Deepa Dhanraj • 1986 • India

    This pioneering work takes communal violence between Hindus and Muslims in 1984 as its starting point, gaining immense political force through its complexity. The film’s historical perspective is provided by a thorough commentary, illuminating the ways in...

  • Something Like a War

    Episode 6

    Directed by Deepa Dhanraj • 1991 • India

    SOMETHING LIKE A WAR is a chilling examination of India’s family-planning program from the point of view of the women who are its primary targets. It traces the history of the family-planning program and exposes the cynicism, corruption, and brutality of ...

  • Love in the Time of AIDS

    Episode 7

    Directed by Deepa Dhanraj • 2006 • India

    LOVE IN THE TIME OF AIDS follows a group of kothis (gay men who identify as femme) in Belgaum, a small city in Karnataka, and traces their stories of love, desire, and ostracization, as well as their work with an NGO that promotes safe-sex practices.

  • Invoking Justice

    Episode 8

    Directed by Deepa Dhanraj • 2011 • India

    In Southern India, many family disputes are settled by Jamaats—all-male bodies that apply Islamic Sharia law to cases without allowing women to be present, even to defend themselves. Recognizing this fundamental inequity, a group of women in 2004 establis...