Monday, August 2, 2010

Woman Rebel: Resistance And Triumph In Nepal


In no way a chick flick, Woman Rebel traces the roots of radical female uprising in Nepal. Specifically, the dangerous but determined journey of one Maoist female guerrilla leader - rebel code name Silu - fueled by political consciousness and mass struggle, from her impoverished and oppressed peasant roots to parliament.

First time filmmaker Kiran Deol gained unprecedented access to the forty percent female People's Liberation Army of Nepal during their rebellion against the monarchy, as they prepare for battle and engage government soldiers in combat. Deol has commented, 'I wanted to showcase a story about women as agents of change, as opposed to victims of circumstance.' And in a country where half the population lives below the international poverty line combined with the violent repression of women, widespread uprising easily emerged as a mass movement against injustice.

A unique notion of feminism that embraces a combined resistance to 'end centuries of class and gender discrimination' the Communist Party of Nepal's armed rebellion has struggled for both 'women's right and freedom for the poor.' In the course of this exhilarating documentary, Silu and her female comrades resiliently move back and forth between everyday personas as dirt poor serfs struggling for meager subsistence, and battalions beaming with pride and political passion.

We come to understand the roots of Silu's sorrow and rage that led her to this radical destiny described as 'bittersweet, as she relates what befell her sister, a face she can't even remember from girlhood, when her sister was sold into marriage at the age of twelve. After being abused and beaten by her husband's family, one day she 'went to fetch wood in the jungle and hung herself. It was the saddest moment of my childhood, and I wanted to prevent other women from having the same fate as my sister.'

Conflict has also resided within her own family, as Silu had to make the difficult decision to fight in a war against her own brother, a government soldier, as well as facing the ambivalence of a worried and scornful mother But she never wavers from focusing on a higher purpose and the greater human family of Nepal. Like the female soldier in her battalion who took up arms to replace her husband killed in the war.

Likewise bittersweet is the eventual declaration of peace, and the emergence of Nepal as the youngest republic on the planet after the monarchy conceded. Silu is seen moving proudly from the secrecy of the jungle battlefields into the Maoist majority parliament as an elected official, and where women constitute a third of the members. And at one resonant moment she can finally reveal her identity in the Assembly chambers to her people and the world - 'My name is Uma Bhujel.'

But frustrated with the less than democratic channels for economic reforms, the Maoists have since left parliament to mobilize for change outside government. And though the future path and strategy is uncertain, Silu remains confident and filled with purpose, 'to fight in a new way. Do the Nepalese have food to eat? Do the Nepalese have clothes to wear?'

And her glowing, inspirational example is captured in a final scene, when she laughs after being asked whether she'd want a boy or girl if she eventually becomes a mother as well. Her characteristically unconventional reply: 'Women have always faced discrimination and violence. I want a daughter who will continue to fight against that.'

Woman Rebel debuts on HBO2, beginning August 18th aand 26th.

Prairie Miller
From The Women's Desk

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