Arpita Kumar is the director of Sita – a short narrative film about an Indian domestic help who becomes a commercial surrogate. She is a graduate from the MFA program in Film/Video at California Institute of the Arts, and has made several short experimental films about female subjectivity that screened at The Museum of Contemporary Arts (MOCA) in Los Angeles, the 3rd South Asian Film Festival in San Francisco, The Chashama Film Festival in New York City, to name a few.
Her Film: You recently made a narrative short called Sita. Can you describe what the film is about?
Arpita Kumar: Sita is a film that unfolds piecemeal by prying open a window onto a day when the lives of three women and a girl converge. Dr. Angela Sharma, an IVF specialist encounters multiple surrogates regularly. Sita is one such surrogate who is pregnant for a Canadian woman, Kate. However, this is a surrogacy that opens a legal and ethical can of worms for all. The story culminates in tragic irony when the body of a young girl and of Sita becomes sites for opposing narratives on female reproduction. With everything at stake, Sita makes a choice that is both dignified and disruptive. There are no villains here, just individuals with desperate needs.
HF: I have read an interview in which you listed questions about commercial surrogacy which your film addresses. What have your biggest challenges been in delving further into this issue as you made your film?
AK: During research, writing, and production of the film, the focus was clearly the surrogate – the woman who rents her womb out to strangers and puts her body through such physical and emotional strain. As I started post-production, I became aware that Sita would be a more powerful film if it also brought forth the predicament of the intended parent as well. The challenge then was to edit and mould the film in such a way that the audience feels not only for Sita but also for Kate, the Canadian woman who has struggled to have a baby for many years now. To highlight the complexity of such a commercial arrangement where abuse and exploitation hurts not only the surrogate but also the intended parents was quite a challenge!
HF: In a recent interview on Open Beast, you mentioned your desire to see activism around medical tourism. What are the ways in which you are trying to raise consciousness about medical tourism, specifically commercial surrogacy?
AK: We just finished the film, so now the focus is to get it out into the world. We plan to do the film festival circuit run – showcase it in as many festivals a possible. Once we are done with the festival circuit, the plan is to screen the film at reproductive rights forums, social justice seminars, on television, the local community screenings –anywhere we could reach a wider audience and get the conversation started about the film and the complexity around the commodification of the third world female body. Of course, posts on blogs such as Her Film are excellent steps towards this goal.
To connect with this filmmaker and to support her work, please visit these links:
Sita’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/SupportSita
Sita’ s Twitter page: @Support_Sita
Sita’s website: www.sitathefilm.com/
Sita IMDB: www.imdb.com/title/tt2211660/