Director Elisa Paloschi’s multiple award winning documentary Driving With Selvi tells the remarkable true story of Selvi – South India’s first female taxi driver.
Forced to marry at the young age of 14, Selvi found herself in a violent and abusive marriage. One day, in a desperate bid to escape, she fled to a highway with the intention of throwing herself under a bus. Instead, she chose to board the bus and thus started her remarkable journey.
The inspiring story of Selvi sees her defy stereotypes by learning to drive, starting her own taxi company, leading educational seminars and emerging as a true inspiration for all the victimized women in India’s patriarchal society.
In 2013, Driving With Selvi was a part of GoodPitch EU and GoodPitch India, two international events bringing together filmmakers with foundations, NGOs, campaigners, philanthropists and policymakers around social justice issues. These events were the starting point of the film’s social impact campaign strategy, aiming to leverage the power of documentary film to support organizations working on the frontline of women’s rights, catalyzing positive change around issues such as Child, early and forced marriage, Gender-Based Violence, Gender equality, Safe transportation for women and Commercial driver training for women.
Following the completion of the film in 2015, its tour of over 100 international film festivals, broadcasts in multiple countries, the ambitious, multi-phase Driving with Selvi social impact campaign was developed and is now ready to launch in India and North America. With sustainability a key objective, the campaign aims to leverage the power of Driving with Selvi to advocate for, and educate on, some of the key issues widely affecting women and young girls in India through grassroots and educational screenings. The campaign also seeks to create economic independence for women like Selvi by promoting alternative livelihoods and providing bursaries to women for driver training programmes.
As a kick-starter to the first phase of the campaign, the Indian community and educational screenings, Paloschi, her team and Selvi herself have embarked upon a twenty-five day screening bus tour through North and South India. This will be the occasion to validate the implementation of the film within grassroots and educational programs and initiate partnerships with organizations who see the value of the film as a tool for social change.
Selvi’s Bus Tour was launched in Delhi on October 11th 2017 on occasion of the International Day of the Girl, in partnership with the Canadian High Commission and Miranda House University College for Women. Since its start, the bus has travelled to urban slums and rural villages through Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh. Post this; the bus will tour through Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh from November 25th to December 10th, marking the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. The other areas that will be covered as a part of the bus tour include Mysuru, Mandya, Banguluru, Bellari in Karnataka and Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh and Hyderabad in Telangana.
With Selvi herself at the wheel, the tour brings her inspiring story to communities where personal and economic independence and opportunities for girls and women are limited. With the support of local grassroots organizations, following each screening, Selvi’s story is used to open a discussion on a variety of issues prevalent within each community as well as engage families in the empowerment and education of girls to pursue their aspirations. Selvi’s presence is key to engage audiences and serve as an inspiration to many underprivileged women.
The North leg of Selvi’s Bus Tour has confirmed the film’s transformative potential. Impact surveys conducted pre and post screening have demonstrated a considerable change in audience beliefs and attitudes towards child marriage and gender-based violence.
The conclusion of Selvi’s Bus Tour will be marked by two Gala Screening events which will be co-hosted by the Canadian High Commission. The screenings will be held in Bengaluru and Delhi on 4th and 8th December 2017 respectively. During the event, the highlights of the tour, as well as results, findings and testimonials concerning the film’s impact as an educational tool for social change will be shared. The event will be attended by Government representatives, NGO representatives, campaign partners, educators and activists.
The makers are now looking to secure partnerships with NGOs and educational institutions who see a potential in integrating Driving with Selvi in their programming, as a tool to engage communities on topics of child marriage, gender-based violence, women’s empowerment, and women’s agency. An educational guide, a screening toolkit, including a language-dubbed DVD, and evaluation materials will be customized according to the target audience and specific needs of future partners.
Talking about Selvi’s Bus Tour and the findings they came across, director-producer Elisa Paloschi says “There are 5 million Indian girls just like Selvi that are married each year before they turn 18 (UNICEF). I am truly humbled to meet these girls as part of Selvi’s Bus Tour, hear their stories and witness the remarkable way in which they engage with the film and the actions that are resulting. The main feedback which we’ve received from these girls is that parents need to see the film as much as their children; that is where the real change happens, but we cannot do it on our own.”
Director’s Bio – Elisa Paloschi
With more than 25 years’ experience in documentary production as a director, producer and cinematographer, Elisa Paloschi is president of Eyesfull, a Toronto-based independent production company dedicated to non-fiction documentaries that reflect the diversity of the human voice.
Paloschi’s latest feature, Driving With Selvi , was shot over the span of 10 years, and premiered at Raindance in 2015. Since then, it has appeared at festivals around the world, winning a number of awards and accolades (best doc, and New Mavericks awards at Atlanta, best doc Reel Asian, best director Yorkton etc.) and was selected as an IDFA Top 10 Audience Favourite. For the last two years, Paloschi has been working on developing the film’s multi-phase social-impact campaign.
About The Film
Selvi, like so many girls living within India’s patriarchal society, is forced to marry at a young age only to find herself in a violent and abusive marriage. One day, in deep despair, she chooses to escape, and goes on to become South India’s first female taxi driver. This is the ten-year journey of a charming, strong, and courageous young woman who defies all expectations, moving beyond the pain she’s experienced to create a new life for herself.
Driving With Selvi – Awards + Accolades
• Top Ten Audience Favourites, IDFA 2015
• Best Documentary – Truth to Power Award, Reel Asian Film Festival 2015
• New Mavericks Award, Atlanta Film Festival 2015
• Best Documentary Award, Atlanta Film Festival 2015
• Winner – Best Director Non Fiction, Yorkton Film Festival.
• Grant awards from Bertha Britdoc Connect Fund, Chicken & Egg Pictures, Fledging Foundation, Women in Film Finishing Fund, WIFT International, Canada Arts Council.
The Director Elisa Paloschi is available for interaction, please let us know if you would like to do an interview with her.