India’s Wushu Warrior Girl

Filmmaker Q&A with Director Jayisha Patel

Is there a particular documentary film or filmmaker that had a major influence on your career?

Andrei Tarkovsky


What motivated you to make this film?

As with most of my films, I aspire to tell stories in solidarity with women who are fighting stereotypes in bold and conventional ways. I hope in doing so, female viewers can emotionally connect and feel represented and validated on screen. With this film I also wanted to invite men into the conversation surrounding female empowerment. Having made films on gender violence in the past, I have learnt that at times it is easy to mistake female empowerment as a women’s rights issue rather than a human rights one. Men’s voices are sorely missing in this discussion and I wanted to re-address that in the making of this film. It was therefore important to highlight Fareeha and also her father’s support of her dreams, so as to invite both men and women to emotionally connect with the film. I hope by doing so, it can inspire both genders to act together for the equality of women.


Please tell us what camera(s) you shot with primarily – and any other special equipment that you used and why you used it.

Canon C300 and Sony FS7 for their ability to capture cinema verite. They are both intuitive camera’s which allows one to focus on the documentary action at hand rather than the technical aspects of the camera.


Please tell us about any special styles or techniques that you used during the production of your film to help tell your story. 

The film very much embodied the intersectional female gaze, which seeks to go beyond a western gaze so as to capture certain nuances and stay authentic to the region it was filmed in. The female gaze also for me puts emotion above technical aspects and works to crete a film in solidarity with the women on screen.


How did your story evolve from day one, to the very last day in post? Is your story what you thought it would be?

The story evolved like any documentary film does. Although I knew from day one that Fareeha was very talented and passionate about the sport, we had no idea whether her parents would end up allowing her to go to the championships or that she would indeed end up winning. Events like that are what I love about documentary filmmaking.


Please describe the most rewarding experience you had while making this film. 

Seeing Fareeha grow in confidence throughout the filmmaking process and after. The film was made. She received many positive words of encouragement from viewers who have been inspired by her story and I think this really helped her to feel rightly validated.


What advice can you give to other impact filmmakers?

Hour the specifics of the story


What’s your favorite part about the filmmaking process and why?

The shoot for its intensity and the edit for seeing the film come together. I think its in the edit when one can truly feel satisfied (or not) that they were able to translate their story across to viewers and which honours their own personal values as filmmakers.


What’s the one item you always take with you when working out in the field and why? 

An open mind. (LUCY LOVES THIS)


Please share a personal story about your experience making this film.

I think seeing Fareeha’s father be so supportive of her really made me question a lot about how gender equality is not only a women’s issue but rather a human rights one. It allowed me to frame the story in a way which highlighted his support so as to hopefully inspire other men to also work in solidarity with women for gender equality.


Can you describe any obstacles you encountered in making your film and/or in your distribution/exhibition efforts?

Gaining the trust with Fareeha’s mother at the start of the filmmaking process was difficult but once myself and my female sound recordist opened up to her and were able to share with her as women, she gradually began to trust us and let us into her and her family’s life.


What do you want audiences to take away from your film?

I’d like them to question the incomplete and often false stereotypes there are in the mass media surrounding muslim women and in doing so to perhaps question their own unconscious bias so as to create a better chance of equality.


Please list key points that should be covered in a post-screening discussion:

1) Issues surrounding unconscious bias and its effect on the viewer

2)the creative process behind creating with a female gaze


Please provide information on any recent developments regarding the issue or subjects of the film. How have things changed or not changed?

Over 9 million people saw the trailer to the film alone. BBC India saw the film and have asked Fareeha to be on a programme which celebrates India’s unsung heroes.


What opportunities are available for those interested in getting further involved?

It would be wonderful to support her local school, a small Islamic school which works at length to support and empower women through wushu training and their high school education.


Please provide any additional resources (websites, links to additional videos, forms, articles, etc.):



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