Interview Hindi

Believed this film needs to be made, says Shazia Javed on 3 Seconds Divorce

The award-winning documentary on the troubling practice of triple talaq is now streaming on Netflix.

Sonal Pandya

Last year, after the world premiere of 3 Seconds Divorce (2018) at the Mumbai International Film Festival, filmmaker Shazia Javed, in a conversation with Cinestaan, had said of her film, “I want young women to look back and see this is how it was done. And you don’t take it for granted.”

3 Seconds Divorce review: Compelling insight into how triple talaq affects the lives of Muslim women

Cinestaan caught up with the filmmaker again on phone in Canada as the film was about to have its online premiere. 3 Seconds Divorce is now available worldwide on Netflix.

Asked about the places the film has travelled to since MIFF 2018, Shazia Javed replied, “What has been really interesting to see is [that] it has been taken up in community settings, and is being used in local contexts. My film, even though it’s set in India, it's being used by communities abroad in their own local context to talk about similar issues.”

She shared the example of a screening in Canada where representatives from different organizations that help out women would attend and talk about the issues that affect South Asian women there.

“We had interesting discussions about what can women do legally, what recourse they can take here, whether the law recognizes it here or not, how socio-cultural factors can pressurize them and what are the other similar issues like polygamy and all that women might face here, even though it’s not legal. Then they start to talk about where women can go for help. To see that happen is very rewarding,” she explained.

The documentary has also had several screenings in the United Kingdom. At one screening, the first female judge from the Sharia court attended a panel discussion on how it could relate to the local community there.

Back in India, a new bill to criminalize triple talaq has been introduced in Parliament by the Narendra Modi government, which was re-elected last month. Shazia began making her film back in 2014 and worked on it for a number of years.

“This whole issue has been developing in India, and [we would have] kept making this film. I sort of stopped somewhere along the line. We changed the text towards the end. There is a text card in the film that says a proposal to criminalize triple talaq has further divided opinion. So that’s where I kind of left it,” Shazia said.

Members of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) who campaigned for the bill have featured in Shazia's documentary. She adds that women are supportive of the bill but want a few amendments to be added on.

Shazia, meanwhile, supports having an alternative law in place. “I think a very clear-cut procedure needs to be set out and then followed. [That] this is what you need to do. To me, that’s more impactful,” she said.

As the 54-minute documentary, which won the Audience Choice award at the Reelworld Festival in Toronto last year, is now available on a giant streaming platform like Netflix, it opens wide doors for the film.

For an independent, self-made filmmaker like Shazia Javed, the film being streamed on Netflix brings great validation.

“I have been pretty persistent. I have had to face some rejections, but I was like, no! Because I see the potential there,” she explained on why she pushed for the film to be screened all over.

“I’m actually extremely excited because a) it’s open to a lot of audience. People can see it in their homes, they can discuss it worldwide. And b) for me as an independent filmmaker who just started from scratch with no resources, but with a belief that this film needs to be made. A lot of people generously gave of their skills and time to make this happen. So it feels like very rewarding and fulfilling. We have got it to a big platform, so it’s success at that level.”

Shazia Javed

Furthermore, these online platforms allow films and their makers to travel to places they wouldn’t ordinarily reach. Shazia agreed.

“A voice of a South Asian immigrant woman making a film, [plus] I don’t have a huge network of people. I do face gatekeeping. It’s doubly hard for me to convince people that I can pull this off, so I think it’s really good to have more venues, because when one venue shuts down on you, you go the other way,” she said.

But this does not mean the documentary’s journey ends here. It continues to be screened at film festivals, university settings and other educational environments. For Shazia, having the personal response from those who have seen it and receiving feedback is important.

For the women who were featured in the documentary, the film’s presence on Netflix means more people will be aware of the troublesome politics and repercussions of triple talaq in the Muslim world.

“Their perspective, people may chose to agree or disagree, but at least it’s there,” Shazia explained. “It’s open for discussion, countrywide. It takes away the onus from them to actually organize those screenings. It’s open to the public. So that way, it’s useful to them.”