YES MADAM, SIR
In 1972 Kiran Bedi became India's first female police officer; she is a Ramon Magsaysay Award (also called the Asian Nobel Prize), winner, adored by the masses and vilified by her critics. She has publicly fought high-level corruption, feudalistic bureaucracies and brutal opposition, all of which has come at great personal and professional cost. She has worked with the United Nations as the Police Advisor to the Secretary General, in the Department of Peace Keeping Operations. She has represented India at the United Nations, and on international forums on crime prevention, drug abuse, police and prison reforms and women's issues. The film follows her over the course of six years, presenting her in the most intimate and revealing light.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
What Megan Doneman's film about Kiran Bedi lacks in technical polish, it compensates by a raw enthusiasm and storytelling focus. It does what it sets out to do, namely to profile this singular Indian female who breaks with conventions and cultural tradition in her push for genuine reform - from within. She sets a great example, but very few follow. By telling her story, Doneman shines another light on India's entrenched system of corruption which defies democracy and common sense. By the way, the UN is no better, as Bedi discovers after she achieves the impossible and gets the job as Police Advisor to the Secretary General.
The filming took some six years on and off, and some of it is fairly poor quality, but the content and the story hold it together. (It's good enough for the Toronto Film Festival to program it....) Donerman has unparalleled access to Bedi, at work, at home, in her car and on the train as she travels 240 kms to see her husband. Their unique relationship is explored and explained (by them) and we see how Bedi's determination (her word) or obsession (his word) drives her to crash through critics and bureaucrats.
Doneman's self-funded film is provocative and engaging; it is a strong story about a strong woman who doesn't use her gender to manipulate men, nor does she stop being a woman, with a notably well maintained relationship with her husband, daughter - and her father, to whom she owes it all for giving her the education with which she could pass the police entrance exam in 1972.
Bedi has several achievements to be proud of, including significant reforms in Delhi's biggest jail and in police cadet training. But she was denied the Police Commissioner's job by powerful forces in Government. They may soon regret that bad decision, if Bedi's supporters have their way and she enters politics. She will certainly shake up India's status quo - something no bureaucrat would welcome.
First published in the Sun-Herald
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YES MADAM, SIR (PG)
CAST: Documentary featuring Kiran Bedi
NARRATION: Helen Mirren
PRODUCER: Megan Donerman
DIRECTOR: Megan Donerman
SCRIPT: Megan Donerman
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Megan Donerman
EDITOR: Megan Donerman, Annie Collins
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Antidote Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 8, 2011