Kalantry Discusses New Documentary "It's a Girl"

It’s a Trick
Sital Kalantry
Slate.com
May 6, 2013

Pro-choice groups love this movie. Its director worked for a pro-life ministry. How did that happen?

It’s a Girl, a documentary about the tragic practice of sex-selection abortions in India and China, is being widely screened by pro-choice groups across America, including the New Jersey Chapter of the National Organization for Women and feminist groups on university campuses.  It was an official selection for the Amnesty International Film Festival in 2012 and appeared in Ms. magazine’s feminist movies review.  But as organizations and groups evaluate whether to screen this movie, they should be aware that the film’s director worked for Harvest Media Ministry, an organization that makes pro-life and other videos for church groups.

How did this happen? How did a movie linked to a pro-life group become the darling of the pro-choice community? The story involves clever disguises on the part of financing sources that managed to hide their involvement and pass off a movie about the horrors of sex-selection abortions as just a sympathetic movie about the plight of women in India and China.  And the pro-life message is subtle enough that they got away with it. 

Shot on location in India and China, the film starts with a poor rural woman from India smiling while she tells the audience that she killed eight of her female babies. The film describes a culture of violence against girls and women in India from being killed in wombs, to killed as infants, to starved and trafficked as young girls, to being beaten as wives. That part is true. Still, when I watched the film, I was reminded of the seminal article by now-dean of SUNY Buffalo Law School, Makau W. Mutua, in which he coined the grand metaphor of human rights discourse as one where the actors are “savages, victims, or saviors.” In this case, Indians are savages, the women are victims, and the Americans are the saviors.