A documentary that shows the impact of sexual violence which happened in Williams Lake on a South Asian immigrant family will have its local premiere Sunday, Nov. 3.
Because We Are Girls that was filmed in Williams Lake and Surrey will be shown at Paradise Cinemas starting at 4 pm with documentary subjects Jeeti, Kira, and Salakshana Pooni in attendance.
“Jeeti is a friend of my mine and she told me years ago that she and her sisters were sexually abused and that they had gone to the police and hopefully the case would get to court but they hadn’t told their parents that they had gone to the police or that it might go to court, so I knew it was going to have a profound impact on the family if that was to come out,” said screenwriter and director Baljit Sangra.
“This is pretty huge; it’s very, very rare for sexual abuse cases to make it to Supreme Court and she said what do you think of this as a documentary because this is a subject that’s never discussed really in the South Asian community and I said absolutely, it’s super important.”
Sangra said she first followed the story as a friend, and luckily later as a filmmaker for three years with the National Film Board agreeing to provide support.
“The court thread is in the film. The film actually starts out in court, but the film also has a lot of layers like growing up in Williams Lake, the immigrant experience, and their childhood so that sort of helps give context to the impact and they do seek justice in the courts. It also highlights their sisterhood and the resilience that they had,” Sangra said.
“I was so determined to seeing it to the end for the verdict and that took a while. We had to wait because there was a year that went by where there was adjournment after adjournment and I’m like I have to see it to the end. We have to wait for the verdict because the whole audience will go what happened, so that took a little longer.”
Despite being found guilty in April 2018, an application asking for a stay of proceedings was granted after the sisters’ rapist alleged his rights to a timely trial were breached.
“One thing that has kept me going is faith and I have faith,” Pooni said in a previous interview with MyCaribooNow.
“I do have faith that Crown will appeal, and in regards to an inquiry into this case it all depends on just not myself and my sisters making noise but also the public because there are multi-million dollars spent on this case which is public money and I think the public has the right to know and they have the right to know exactly what went wrong in this case and what loopholes criminals are using to get away with creating horrific crimes, committing horrific crimes against us Canadians.”
Because We Are Girls had its world premiere at Hot Docs in Toronto where it received a standing ovation.
All proceeds from the documentary’s premiere in Williams Lake will be donated to the Chiwid Transition House.