“To Kill a Tiger”


Metacritic (7/10), Letterboxd (3.5/5), Imdb.com (7/10), TMDB.com (7/10)

According to official estimates, a woman in India is raped every 20 minutes, and roughly 90% of those incidents go unreported, despite strengthened legal protections that have been put into place. Police investigations seldom achieve much, either, especially since residents in many communities (particularly in rural areas) prefer to handle such episodes among themselves without outside official intervention, a means to avoid bringing undue attention to such troubling circumstances and the attendant shame that accompanies them. However, in 2017 in eastern India, a courageous father whose 13-year-old daughter was brutally assaulted and subsequently beaten by three men chose to pursue the matter legally in court, despite opposition from village residents, who proposed that the young girl simply marry one of the rapists to dispense with the incident. Their inspiring journey in fighting back provides the basis for this Oscar-nominated documentary from writer-director Nisha Pahuja. It effectively chronicles their pursuit of justice despite these oppressive odds, including death threats and ongoing intimidation, as well as antagonism against the film crew in documenting this often-inflammatory tale. The film sensitively depicts how this experience personally affected father, daughter and the rest of their family as they held firm in their resolve to see their way through this painful ordeal. It also outlines the many uphill challenges they faced in combatting a convoluted, inept, excessively burdened bureaucracy and a range of archaic, widely sanctioned, misogynistic social conventions. Fortunately, they had ample support from organizations and individuals helping them to make their case, an effort that resulted in a landmark judicial decision with far-reaching implications that sent shockwaves throughout the country. The story is well told, despite a slight tendency to become somewhat redundant at times in the picture’s second half. That aside, though, “To Kill a Tiger” is a riveting yet disturbing release that shines an exceedingly bright light on a troubling issue, one that’s raised early on in the film in a news report sound bite about this incident in which the narrator rhetorically poses the question, “Is there something innately wrong with this country?” That’s a powerful observation about a potently alarming subject, one that’s raised to a new level of awareness by this formidable cinematic release, currently available for streaming on Netflix.