Depicting the rape and murder of a medical student in 2012 that sparked violent protests, the documentary “India’s Daughter” has been mired in controversy since the Indian government implemented its ban.
But Oscar-winning actress Streep, who introduced the documentary at its U.S. theatrical release in New York City on Wednesday night, said it was worthy of the movie industry’s highest honour.
“I’m on the campaign now to get her nominated for best documentary,” said Streep, speaking of the film’s director, Leslee Udwin.
The hour-long film chronicles the gang rape of Jyoti Singh, 23, on a moving bus in India’s capital and the subsequent protests started by Indian students.
Singh, who was returning home from the cinema with a male friend, died after her assailants pushed a metal rod inside her and pulled out her intestines.
“When I first saw [the film] I couldn’t speak afterwards,” Streep said.
The film draws on extensive footage of an interview in jail with one of the attackers, Mukesh Singh, who blamed the victim for being out in the evening with a male friend.
“A decent girl won’t roam around at nine o’clock at night,” he says. “A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy.”
Sentenced to death, he has appealed his verdict along with three other convicted assailants also on death row.
The documentary, scheduled for broadcasting in 2012 in India, was banned while Udwin was in the country promoting it, the director said during a talk following its screening.
In a statement, the government warned that certain excerpts “appear to encourage and incite violence against women.”
The movie will open in U.S. theaters on October 23 nationwide, promoter Christine Merser said. Screenings are also scheduled in a handful of countries from Iceland to China.
Udwin said she had found hope in the outpouring of support following Singh’s rape but was dismayed at the timid outcry after a 4-year-old girl was raped and beaten with stones in New Delhi earlier this month.
“Why are people not out on the streets now?” she said.
There were 33,764 victims of rape in India in 2013 according to the country’s National Crime Records Bureau.