About this project
A feature documentary By Shashwati Talukdar and Cheryl Hess--coming in 2018.
NEW KICKSTARTER GOAL: $20,000
When we launched this campaign we were being very conservative and very cautious in our fundraising goal. We wanted to make sure that we could raise enough to get to rough cut stage. Now that we have reached that goal we have decided to add a stretch goal of $20,000 because the more we can raise the more weeks we will have with our editor Jacob. This is the time when a lot of documentary films lose their momentum so the more time with Jacob, the more complete the product that we will be showing to potential broadcasters and distributors. Thanks for supporting Marriage Cops!
So your deadbeat husband is spending all the household money on booze and gambling and you don’t have enough money to buy formula for your baby.
Who do you turn to for help?
Your interfering mother-in-law is making your life hell. She threatens to send you back to your parents because you haven’t produced a son.
What do you do?
Your wife is spending too much time on her cell phone so you suspect she has a lover.
Where do you go?
If you live in Dehradun the answer to these questions is: the local police station. And the examples that I just gave are real.
So who are Marriage Cops?
About ten years ago the state police of Uttarakhand started a new initiative in order to help women and their families with problems that were outside of the realm of criminal offenses like domestic violence and polygamy.
And so the Mahila Help Line (Women’s Help Line) was created. The Help Line is a marital counseling center run by the state police where unhappy couples seek relief from their domestic troubles—abusive spouses, deadbeat dads, cheating wives and interfering mothers-in-law—the Help Line sees it all. It is lead by no-bullshit Officer Sandhya Rani who is tasked with helping to solve women’s domestic issues through counseling and mediation using only her police smarts--she doesn’t have any formal training in psychology, counseling or mediation. She is assisted by a team of over-worked woman constables who staff the reception office--answering phones, making appointments, keep tracks of the files, and attending to the public.
But why do people go to the police for marriage troubles?
If you build it they will come? First of all, the Helpline is overwhelming hit with the local community--with over a thousand new cases every year. With each couple getting an average of three counseling sessions, it is a busy place. It’s open six days a week. And remains open even on some holidays when the rest of the offices in the police headquarters are closed. Women--and many men--go to the helpline quite simply because they are desperate to get help and to get it from a neutral party. The majority have no where else to go, no one to turn to. The Helpline is, in many ways, a weapon of the weak.
Does it work?
Well, yes and no. For sure The Helpline is not solving the greater problem of gender inequality in India but in spite of its deficiencies it really does help couples...sometimes. In certain cases, all a woman needs is to talk to a neutral party--especially if that party has the power to tell your husband, a degenerate gambler, to watch his profligate ways or your meddling mother-in- law to mind her own business.
My co-director Shashwati and I have know each other since grad school and have always talked about collaborating on a project. I’m based in Philly, she in in India and Taiwan but two years ago over a quick lunch in NYC we hatched an idea about making a film about women in India. There was a lot of negative press about how women were victimized in India at the time. While we didn’t want to discount these stories, we knew that there were more voices that weren’t getting heard. During an insomnia induced bout of web surfing I came across an article in an Indian newspaper about an all female police force and I knew we had our topic. Shashwati and I traveled to her hometown of Dehadun, in Northern India at the foothills of the Himalayas, to do research on these women cops. What we found surprised us. We were expecting a female version of a typical police officer but what we found was far more complex. It took us almost a year to gain access to film in the police station (with much help from Shashwati’s mom!) but once we were let in, we were given so much more. With the great generosity of our subjects, they let us into their quarrels, loves and heartbreaks. We travelled to India twice and filmed over three months and gathered almost 100 hours of footage to create “Marriage Cops”.
We Need Your Help Because?
Quite simply we need to get to the rough cut stage. We have received a few small grants, including a very prestigious one from The Tribeca Film Institute but mostly we have been investing our own savings because we know the story of the marriage cops is unique and special and by following Sandhya and the couples at the Help Line we hope to both educate and challenge audiences' preconceived notions - about India, about gender roles, and about the very notions of marriage -- and what it means to truly help. Every dollar that we raise will go to our brilliant editor, Jacob Bricca. The last film he worked on won a special jury prize at Sundance in 2016. We are so lucky to have him as part of our team.
Shashwati Talukdar--Co-Director/Producer Shashwati began her career as an assistant editor for a TV show by Michael Moore. Since then she has edited projects for HBO, BBC, Lifetime, Sundance and Cablevision in New York and is currently working as an independent producer in in Asia. Her recent films include the prize winning ‘Please Don’t Beat Me, Sir!’ (2011) about a theatre group from the Chhara Denotified community in Ahmedabad, India; ‘Wall Stories’ (2014) a hybrid documentary about mural paintings in the Western Himalayas. Her work has shown at venues including the Busan International Film Festival, Margaret Mead Festival, Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia and the Whitney Biennial. She has been supported by entities including the Asian Cine Fund in Busan, the Jerome Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, India Foundation for the Arts and received the James Yee Mentorship award from the Center for Asian American Media and an IFP-New York fellowship among others. She lives and works between Taiwan and India.
Cheryl Hess (Co-director/producer and DP) is an award-winning filmmaker and cinematographer from Philadelphia. Her documentary La Promesa:The Vow, filmed in Cuba over a three-year period (distributed by Cinema Guild) has screened at festivals all over the world including Tribeca, Silverdocs, Tampere and the Cork Film Festival. It was awarded prizes at The Big Muddy Film Festival (Best Documentary), the Philadelphia Film Festival/Fest of Indies (Best Documentary), the Iowa City Film Festival (Best International Film), the NAIN Film Festival (Best Short Film), the Black Maria Film Festival (Juror’s Citation), and the Best Doc prize at the U.S. Super 8 + DV Film Festival which also awarded top honors to her hybrid short Welcome to CB Land. In 2006 Cheryl was a recipient of the prestigious Pew Fellowship in the Arts for her body of work as a media artist. She has also received grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, The Leeway Foundation, the Philadelphia Independent Film and Video Association and was a Fulbright Scholar to Colombia in 2005.
Jacob Bricca--Editor Jacob is an award-winning Tucson-based film editor, producer and director who holds a post as Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona's School of Theatre, Film & Television. He has edited over a dozen feature films including the international theatrical hit Lost In La Mancha, the New Yorker Films theatrical release Con Artist, the Independent Lens Audience Award winner Jimmy Scott: If You Only Knew, and the 2016 Sundance Special Jury Prize winner The Bad Kids. His directorial credits include Pure, which premiered at the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival and played at festivals from India to Brazil, and Finding Tatanka, which premiered at the2014 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival and has since screened at 18 other venues including the Maysles Documentary Center in New York City. Students from his tenure as head of the production program at Wesleyan University include director Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild), producer Ami Boghani (The Reluctant Fundamentalist) and editor Jennifer Lame (Frances Ha.) He is an Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona’s School of Theatre, Film and Television, where he teaches classes on editing and documentary and narrative filmmaking.
A Word about Two of Our Rewards
We are thrilled that Monica Talukdar, one of our project consultants (who is also a well-known visual artist in Uttarakhand and Shashwati’s mom!) has generously agreed to donate an original painting inspired by our film.
And we will be offering prints of an original artwork by our graphic designer, Philadelphia-based grafitti artist Phil Asbury. He created the work just for Marriage Cops and it depicts the Hindu god/goddess Ardhanarishvara who is half male (Shiva) and half female (Parvati) and represents the dual nature of the universe.
Risks and challenges
Marriage Cops is in post-production with a great editor and we have received a lot of interest in the project BUT all the interested parties want to see our rough cut. Your help will help us clear this crucial hurdle.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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