Dialect Magazine

FILM | Salma wins high praises at Sundance, makes move to Berlin

salmaSALMA is a 90 minute Women Make Movies release based on a real life story that made it to Sundance 2013.  It is now on its way to the screens of Berlin for the Berlin International Film Festival, where it has also been nominated for the CINEMA Fairbindet Award. The tamil-spoken/english-subtitled film was directed by internationally acclaimed filmmaker Kim Longinotto and written by Ollie Huddleston.  Director Longinotto’s films tend to tackle a wide range of issues that women confront around the world.  She made her film debut with PRIDE OF PLACE, which took a critical look at her all-girls’ boarding school, while she studied at England’s National Film School.   Her next film, THEATRE GIRLS, was shot in a hostel for homeless women.  Her resume of films goes back to 1976.

SALMA is based in United Kingdom/India.

Here is the synopsis:

It’s the remarkable story of a woman who defies her village to become the legendary activist, politician and poet SALMA.

When Salma reached puberty, her parents locked her away from the world.  She spent nine years trapped in one small room. Millions of young girls endure the same sort of fate, but Salma refused to let the long years of imprisonment break her spirit.  Using hoarded scrap paper, she managed to smuggle out poems that expressed her hidden anger and pain.  The poems scandalized her community but inspired readers all over South India. Twenty-five years later, Salma’s brave defiance is a rare beacon of hope.

Like an unfolding detective story, this moving, passionate film charts the transformation of a frightened, isolated young girl into an unlikely hero.

Kim Longinotto

Kim Longinotto

The director, Kim Longinotto, learned about Salma from a woman at a seminar at a Film Festival in Delhi.

“It was such an inspiring and unusual story that I knew immediately that I really wanted to make a film about her.”

– Longinotto

When Longinotto was asked if she thinks SALMA will be a quieter, more reflective film compared to her previous films, she responded:

“Yes, exactly, I wanted the film to be closer to a novel.    Ollie said a detective story.   Where the story is unraveled and keeps surprising us.   You’re going deeper into people’s motives, their fears.   You have to think flexibly and follow the strands that people offer you.  You have to be open to the feelings that people reveal that they don’t normally express.   The film must embrace the complexities and contradictions.  For instance, Salma’s mum was her jailer, her betrayer but she still loves her daughter and wanted to save her.  She helped her escape.    Salma calls it “The knots and ties of love”.”



Salma, herself, was a poet, author and politican.  In a December 2006 interview with Poetry International Web, she shared a story of what happened when her family found out she and some classmates went to see a matinee at a theater near a library she was supposed to be studying at one saturday.

“From that day, right up to my wedding day, I hadto spend nearly nine years confined to my house, never crossing its threshold and not meeting anyone outside my immediate family, especially men about whom the rules were very strict. I experienced that period of my life as one of intense loneliness. To describe in words the sadness of spending the most
important and joyful season of one’s life entirely alone is an extraordinary thing. The language of my poetry formed and developed in a situation where I had no access to even ordinary friendship where I could share my feelings, dreams and desires.”

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