MOVIES: Documentary contrasting beauty pageants and girls’ combat camps coming to Vancouver

Published: December 7, 2012

Miss India 2009 Pooja Chopra appears as herself in The World Before Her. Submitted photo

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI

An award winning Indian documentary exploring the culture clash of beauty pageantry and Hindu religious extremism is making a stop in Vancouver on Friday.

Writer and director Nisha Pahuja’s The World Before Her will be playing at Fifth Avenue Cinemas at 2110 Burrard St. starting Dec. 7 as part of its Canadian tour.

The film follows 20 pageant contestants in a month-long “beauty boot camp” in Bombay, where they train to win the Miss India pageant title. For the women the crown means instant stardom, a successful career and freedom from India’s patriarchal society.

But the sub-continent’s love of beauty pageants has also resulted in protests over its Westernization – which Pahuja also explores in her film. The movie travels to another corner of India to capture a bi-annual training camp for young girls run by the Durgha Vahini: the women’s wing of a militant fundamentalist movement.

Pahuja’s is the first film crew to ever enter these camps.

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The documentary follows lectures and physical combat training teaching the girls how to be “good Hindu women.”

The World Before Her won best documentary feature award at the Tribeca Film Festival in April and has been featured in more than 50 film festivals across the world.

“This film has been my life for the past few years,” Pahuja said in a release. “And for it to touch so many people and receive such positive reactions around the world has been a heartwarming, humbling experience that has far surpassed any of my expectations.”

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