Only 1 Indian film nominated for Oscar 2024, details inside

Los Angeles: Delhi-born Nisha Pahuja’s film ‘To Kill a Tiger’ has been nominated in the best feature documentary category for the Oscars 2024.

She said that she learned about the honour along with the rest of the world while watching the live announcement, reported The Hollywood Reporter.

“I was in shock. I couldn’t believe it. I was over the moon. Yeah, I just couldn’t believe it,” Pahuja told The Hollywood Reporter about her emotional reaction.

“This film has work to do in the world,” said Nisha about her documentary about an Indian farmer’s legal battle for his daughter after a brutal sexual assault.

Indian-born Canadian filmmaker Pahuja’s previous films include the Emmy nominated ‘The World Before Her’, the feature documentary ‘Bollywood Bound’ and the three-part series ‘Diamond Road’.

‘To Kill a Tiger’ is all about Ranjit, a farmer in Jharkhand, India, who takes on the fight of his life when he demands justice for his 13-year-old daughter, Kiran, after she survived a sexual assault by three men in 2017.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, out of a father’s love for his daughter and his uphill battle for justice for her has come the Oscar nomination for Pahuja, who was born in New Delhi and raised in Toronto.

But aside from her career milestone, the ‘To Kill a Tiger’ director is more focused on the global platform her film has secured to drive impact for greater gender justice for survivors of rape and other sexual violence in India and the rest of the world.

“This whole journey and the determination to do this has been because this film needs a big platform because it’s important. And it’s a tough subject, and I know this film has work to do in the world,” Pahuja insisted.

The director added, “Their story, their struggle, their commitment to justice, the fact that as a man, he (Ranjit) stood by his daughter, which is so rare. The film is about the underdog, a David vs. Goliath story, and it’s a film about love.”

She also hopes to change attitudes to legal justice for survivors of rape and other sexual violence around the world, especially in the U.S. and the UK where the conviction rates for those accused of rape remain stubbornly low and below those of the courts in India.

“The things she (Kiran) faced and her family faced in terms of the justice system, the kind of prejudice and victim shaming that happens, those are felt by sexual violence survivors around the world,” Pahuja told THR. She hopes the Oscar nomination for To Kill a Tiger will help end toxic masculinity by tackling patriarchal practices and attitudes.

“We’re not looking at the importance of men standing up for women. And that, to me, is the power of the film,” Pahuja said. Her previous work includes the doc The World Before Her. To Kill a Tiger is a Notice Pictures production and a co-production with the National Film Board of Canada.

Apart from getting an Oscar nomination, ‘To Kill a Tiger’ also won the prize for Best Canadian Film at the 2022 Toronto Film Festival and the best doc award at the Palm Springs Film Festival. As for who Pahuja will take to the Academy Awards, there’s no uncertainty about that.

“I’ll take Ranjit and his daughter. That’s the reason we are where we are. It’s because of them,” the filmmaker declared. Pahuja hadn’t yet spoken to the main subjects of her film on Tuesday morning as the father and his daughter had yet to wake in India.

In the documentary, Kiran was still a child and a survivor of a gang rape. Today, she’s nearly 20 years of age. “And she’s in a much better place. And she’s excited, really, really thrilled,” Pahuja said of Kiran, who attended earlier screenings of the doc in the UK.

‘To Kill a Tiger’ got its theatrical release in October 2023 at the Film Forum in New York before expanding to major cities. On the road to possible Oscar glory, To Kill a Tiger has had some heavyweight promoters, including executive producers Dev Patel, Mindy Kaling, Rupi Kaur and Atul Gawande.

Other executive producers include Andy Cohen, Anita Lee, Andrew Dragoumis, Shivani Rawat, Anita Bhatia, Niraj Bhatia, Deepa Mehta, Samarth Sahni, S. Mona Sinha of Equality Now, Mala Gaonkar of the Surgo Foundation, Priya Doraswamy, Jason Loftus, Geeta Sondhi and Cornelia Principe, reported The Hollywood Reporter.