Filmmaker John McCrite documents activist Aparna Rajawat’s Pink Belt Mission
Filmmaker John McCrite who is known for his short films Little Boy Blues, Boy’s Brief’s 3, The Boy Next Door, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Adjacent and One Third the Terror was so enamoured by Aparna Rajawat and her Pink Belt Mission during his trip to India that he decided to make a documentary on her. Aparna, India’s sixteen times national champion in martial arts who is also known for training women in self-defence to bring attention to the violence against the gender in India, became the US-based filmmaker’s latest muse. The film was premiered at the Jaipur International Film Festival and won two awards at the event. John takes us through the project and talks at length about his subject Aparna Rajawat. Excerpts:
What inspired you about Aparna to make a film on her?
What inspired me to make a documentary about Aparna Rajawat was her tenacity. In all the stories she told me about her life, no matter what happened to her, she never gave up. She was a fighter. When she heard the story of Nirbhaya, she decided enough is enough and she started Pink Belt Mission. She trains young women self-defence and teaches them their legal rights. It’s inspiring.
For how long have you known her and when did you meet her first?
I have known Aparna since April of 2019. I was on a private tour of India and she was my tour guide. Her stories were fascinating, and I wanted to capture them on film. I didn’t know at the time that it would turn into a documentary. She came to my home in Los Angeles and we interviewed her for over six hours. It was from that first interview that the documentary was born.
How challenging was it documenting her journey?
One of the challenging parts of making the film was that several of the women didn’t speak English, so I asked the questions in English, and they answered in Hindi. I always had someone on location to translate. And in the editing room, we had to have a translator create English subtitles. The process took twice as long. But the real challenge was that the women’s stories were devasting. My heart was broken, interview after interview. I would go back to my hotel room and I was devasted at the inhumanity I witnessed. But there was also a resilience. All the women were survivors and that gave me the reason to get up the next day and hear more stories. I was in awe of the power these women possessed.
Why did you choose the medium of feature docu?
I wanted to tell Aparna’s story as a documentary because when she told me she wanted to break the Guinness World Record, I thought it would be glorious to film. And I thought it would be thrilling, like a sporting event, to see if she could pull it off. All the odds were against her, and the whole team from Hollywood was rooting for her, and moment to moment we did not know what would happen. But the real story is, she was trying to make a difference. She didn’t need a piece of paper; it was the fact that she brought all those women and young girls together to stand for each other. To stand for themselves. And it was all happening live, there was no second take. It really kept the camera team on their toes, and it was exhilarating.
What are the other projects that you are working on?
I am currently on a new documentary about a women’s football team in Kansas City Missouri called the Glory. We will follow the team throughout an entire season to see if they can win the championship in their league. And we will see what struggles they face in their lives.