Film poster for To Kill a Tiger.
Film poster for To Kill a Tiger. Credit: NFB Credit: NFB

To Kill a Tiger, the latest National Film Board documentary, opens across Canada this month. Go and see it!

When Ranjit wakes to find his 13-year-old daughter has not returned home from a family wedding he realizes that his worst nightmare has come true.

A frantic search ensues but a few hours later “J” stumbles home. It’s clear that she has been raped but no one expected it to be by guests at the wedding one of whom has a family connection.

To Kill a Tiger chronicles the efforts of a simple Indian villager’s pursuit of justice for his beloved daughter in a world filled with misogynous customs and traditions.

While the rapists are arrested and await trial, the villagers and their leaders launch a sustained campaign to force Ranjit to drop the charges. As the villagers see it, there’s only one solution to the situation and that’s for ‘J’ to marry one of her rapists. That is the only way ‘J’ can restore her honour and that of the community.

Instead, Ranjit chooses the long, arduous and dangerous journey of navigating India’s tangled court system while staving off threats of physical violence and death. All in the name of love for his daughter, ‘J.’

Every 20 minutes a rape is reported in India. Convictions rates are less than 30 per cent. Ranjit has set off on an unprecedented journey that few are brave enough to undertake or strong enough to endure.

According to the Justice Institute of British Columbia, a woman is sexually assaulted every 17 minutes in Canada. About 12 per cent of the cases reported to police in Canada result in a conviction. However, only 6.5 per cent of the sexual assaults reported to police in Canada results in jail time for the rapist.

It’s even more defeating if you consider that for every 1,000 sexual assaults in Canada only 33 are reported; 29 recorded as a crime; 12 charges laid; 6 prosecuted; resulting in a total of 3 convictions while 997 rapists walk away free. That is a 0.3 per cent conviction rate.

All of that to say, watch this documentary.

Ranjit’s quest for justice for ‘J’ comes to the attention of the Srijan Foundation. This non-governmental organization works to sensitize men and boys on women’s rights – think White Ribbon Campaign in Canada. They hold Ranjit up as inspiration for Indian men and boys to change misogynous customs, traditions and ways of thinking.

Unfortunately, both the presence of the Srijan Foundation and the documentary camera crew raise the ire of the villagers and the village leader. As the trial gets underway, Ranjit finds himself increasingly isolated, facing escalating threats of violence and burdened with insurmountable financial debt.

In the end, Ranjit does slay the proverbial tiger and forces a social reckoning that is still reverberating throughout India.

Awarded Best Documentary at the Palm Springs International Film Festival (2023) and Official Selection at the Toronto International Film Festival (2022), To Kill a Tiger opens February 9 at Hot Docs in Toronto.

Additional Canadian screening dates here.

Doreen Nicoll

Doreen Nicoll is weary of the perpetual misinformation and skewed facts that continue to concentrate wealth, power and decision making in the hands of a few to the detriment of the many. As a freelance...