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As part of a collaboration between the High Commission of Canada and Progresif, a film screening was held at Progresif Cellulars’s Headquarters on March 3. As part of an audience watching the film for the first time, one is struck by Selvi’s unapologetic persistence in crafting her own path via her own means, as well as her refusal to let her terrible past deter her from giving out second chances. Paloschi, who was also in attendance during the screening, spoke highly of Selvi’s effortless charm regardless of her situation, as well as her eagerness to prove herself, which the director aimed to capture during the ten years of shooting.
The tiniest film on our list, this modest but unforgettable documentary tells the simple tale of an unflappable Indian girl ... There’s something in Selvi’s journey from the darkest trauma to glorious self-actualisation that feels powerfully relevant to our times.
That twist would be enough to delight even the most jaded documentary aficionado, but Paloschi’s tight direction and crisp pace further elevate the film, turning what most would assume to be a sob story into a triumphant chronicle that never slips into sentimentality.
Driving With Selvi: A terrific Canadian doc that tells the wrenching but inspirational story of South India’s first female taxi driver, Driving With Selvi has travelled far and wide since it served as a very moving opening-night selection for the Reel Asian festival last year.
It’s taken almost a year for Driving With Selvi to get a theatrical release in Toronto after opening the 2015 Reel Asian film festival. But now, Elisa Paloschi’s inspirational documentary is back, and you should see it.
Selvi is a young Indian woman who fled an abusive marriage to reinvent herself as the first female taxi driver in the city of Karnataka – a hard-won achievement that opened doors to further opportunities.
Gisteren tijdens Wereldmeisjesdag werd door de Verenigde Naties in Brussel de inspirerende documentaire Driving with Selvi vertoond, over een jonge vrouw die de Indiase patriarchale tradities trotseert. Oneworld-reporter Robin ontmoette Selvi en de Canadese filmmaakster Elisa Paloschi en zag ook de documentaire.
One can’t help wondering how the presence of film-makers in Selvi’s life since her teens has shaped her, but clearly she’s repaid Paloschi for the spotlight by growing into a deeply likable, engaging screen presence. One can help wondering what darker details might have been left out of the final edit, but it’s an effective bit of awareness-raising.
"A child bride... is the unlikely star of an inspiring film in this month's Doc Edge Film Festival....You only need to see Selvi to understand the fascination. Belying an early life of appalling disadvantage and cruelty, her smile is dazzling enough to light up a small town; self-effacing and unassuming, she's a tiny tomboy equally at home slinging a Tata down rutted streets or driving a truck along dusty highways."
"I recommend even more strongly Driving with Selvi, Elisa Paloschi’s 10-years-in-the-making tale of a South Indian woman who escaped her awful (and common) fate as a child bride in an arranged marriage, finding fulfillment as one of her country’s few female taxi drivers.
It’s the sort of movie that makes you cringe once you understand the suffering its real-life heroine endured, and feel absolutely elevated by her self-fulfillment."
"After watching hundreds of films... Ms. Dreyer championed Driving with Selvi, a documentary about South India’s first female cab driver....Ms. Dreyer said she had already had an interest in the Southern Indian region. “I felt very connected with the character [Selvi], she’s inspiring,” she said. “It’s stories like this that deserve to be told.”
From the all female programming team “... Atlanta Film Festival is presenting, among others, Driving with Selvi (Elisa Paloschi) a documentary about the first woman taxi driver in South India. ...it’s about continuing to push for diverse stories on both sides of the camera.”
"Several weeks ago, I was delighted and honored to participate on a panel following the screening of the remarkable film, Driving with Selvi, organized by The United Nations Association of Denver....Many beautiful and powerful RIPPLES have emerged to share. May they inspire and ignite you this day..."
"Paloschi shadowed her endearing can-do subject for a decade, which gives this inspirational film considerable scope. While Selvi’s past was so ugly she once contemplated suicide, with her self-liberation taking a heartbreaking toll on her own family relations, this is ultimately a story of hope. This young mother and human-rights activist with a winning smile is a wonderful role model, living proof it’s never too late to overcome adversity and achieve happiness on your own terms."
"Driving with Selvi gaat over de eerste vrouwelijke taxichauffeur van India. Best een bijzonder fenomeen in een land waar mannen regeren en vrouwen behoren te gehoorzamen. Selvi is dan ook geen doorsnee vrouw, ze maakt haar dromen waar en ze zal het verleden niet laten regeren over haar toekomst."
Driving With Selvi isn’t like most documentaries that just throw information at you in a too-organized way. The film unravels like a good narrative, allowing the story to go where it will while still managing to keep the audience entertained and engrossed. It’s not only that Selvi is such an amazing woman (I fully wanted to become best friends with her while watching this movie) who is perpetually looking for what she can do next in order to survive and be happy, but also because Paloschi doesn’t force the story out.
But Driving With Selvi, as a film, isn't about investigating the issues. Instead, it's a personal story — a gentle portrait of Selvi's life over the last 10 years, one that breathes along with her in its pacing, as the doc's Toronto-based director Elisa Paloschi — who's also the cinematographer — beautifully captures the vibrancy, and the poverty, of her subject's surroundings.
"Driving with Selvi gaat over Selvi, die als kindbruid op haar veertiende aan een nare man wordt verkocht om door hem en anderen te worden misbruikt. Maar Selvi slaagt erin om te ontsnappen en zelfs om een succesvol bestaan als taxi-chauffeur op te bouwen – geen gangbare beroepskeuze voor een vrouw in India. Selvi blijft overeind, we volgen hoe ze zelfs ondanks haar traumatische verleden nog verliefd kan worden en een eigen gezin weet op te bouwen."
In a genre known for utilizing heavy-handed storytelling to get agendas across, Driving with Selvi works because of its subtlety. Paloschi never uses the film as a platform to preach, instead she chooses to observe Selvi’s slow march toward happiness and let the circumstances surrounding her do the talking.
“I wasn’t expecting to make a feature film at all, but over the next couple years I went back over and over again, and each time there was something interesting happening in Selvi’s life,” Paloschi, who is also a photographer, tells realscreen. “It took a few years of filming her before I even knew that there was a film.”
The Toronto-based director traveled frequently to India after her initial trip in 2004, often returning to see Selvi. Once she committed to the idea of making a doc, she figured she would focus on the taxi company Selvi hoped to form with other women, but when those plans fell through, the film became about Selvi’s personal journey into marriage and motherhood, her professional achievements – learning to drive a passenger bus and challenging cultural norms around driving, to name a few – and later coming to terms with the tragic events of her past.
"Director/producer Paloschi – whose Jane Bunnett study, Embracing Voices, established her as a sensitive and clear-eyed filmmaker – first met Selvi in 2004, and the decade-long friendship between the two is apparent in Selvi’s comfort in front of the camera and her frankness in discussing the ugly past she’s left behind."
"Driving with Selvi is an acclaimed Canadian documentary by Elisa Paloschi on South India's first female taxi driver, Selvi..."
In advance of Toronto’s ReelAsian film festival. the reporter speaks with Elisa in studio about
visiting India as a tourist, how she first met Selvi, 10 years of
shooting the film, making a film in a developing nation, why Indian
women in smaller cities rarely drive, Selvi’s motivation, human
trafficking, child brides, poverty, feminism, women as second-class
citizens, dowries, divorce, motivation, how to share her story …and
'That gentle, unobtrusive style allows Selvi to take centre stage, making for a slight (the runtime is just 70 minutes) yet inspiring piece of cinema: at the end of it all, she remains admirably in forward gear, planning to move from taxis to trucks. After sitting in her back-seat for an hour, you believe she can do it."
"The misogynist patriarchy in India (and, shamefully, much of the world) is the backdrop to Driving with Selvi but it is the voice of women that are in the foreground.It is hard not to feel intense anger and disgust at parts of her story, but the important part is that she is telling it – and with an intelligence and bravery that inspires a degree of hope."
"The film is like a love letter to humans who manage wonderful things.
Not just brilliant because of Selvi herself, the film’s tone is perfect; it is important without preaching, and heart-breaking without overplaying the tragedy....
A story that spreads a message whilst also drawing you into a warm personality, Driving With Selvi will offer hope and give you drive to be more like Selvi herself."
"In front of Paloschi’s lense, Selvi undergoes the metamorphosis from a victim of poverty and child abuse to empowerment and success. She was a victim of her circumstances, but Selvi managed to overcome and carved a unique path for herself rather than letting her fate be determined by the reality she was exposed to. “It’s really about her own agency,” Paloschi told me. Selvi is at the steering wheel of personal growth and change for women in India. Driving with Selvi gives the world a back seat view to her journey."