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Not just a pinch of skin

18.8.2013. A film student made a film about the practice of FGM in the Bohra community in India. First it was seen with suspicion, now she won a national award.

Interview of the director by Yollande D’Mello (dna)

It started out as a college project that Priya Goswami, an alumna of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, worked on in her final year. In March, the 25-minute documentary, A Pinch of Skin, about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in India, won the National Film Award in the Special Mention category. dna caught up with her for a chat

Why did you choose this topic?
I stumbled upon an article that broached the topic and knew immediately that this would be the subject of my documentary. I had never heard about the practice of Female Genital Mutilation from friends belonging to the Dawoodi Bohra community or otherwise, and wondered why that was. I want to start a conversation. I’m a feminist at heart but I wanted to make an objective film.

How did you convince people to come on record?
I shot in Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Surat and Udaipur where people were either on board or not. We worked around their requests to use silhouettes, not shoot faces or simply record audio. I took whatever they gave me.

How does the film manage to capture emotions without any faces?
Everyone we spoke to had a vociferous opinion to be expressed. We let their body language do the talking. So gesticulating hands and tensed toes make up for facial expressions.

How did the practice of FGM begin?
It’s a myth. There is actually no mention of it in the Quran. Since the community was predominantly merchants, men travelled a lot. Removing the haraam ki boti, as it is called, was a way to control the sexual urges of women and keep them from infidelity. Read More.