An old-fashioned workers’rights agitprop drama, Indian indie “The Little Republic” (original title “Swaraaj” translates more closely to “Self-Government”) finds women of various castes in a small Rajasthan village uniting when the menfolk drag their feet about a desperately needed water well. Making up in earnestness whatever it lacks in sophistication, modest production will be of particular interest to women’s and human rights fests.
Local Brahmin consider themselves liberal for allowing women to join the town council, but those femmes are expected to shut up when real decisions are made — the results usually catering to corrupt business interests and class prejudice. When women discover water beneath what seemed a tapped-out well, they’re overjoyed — no more will they have to pay a delivery man, or walk great distances for this basic need. Yet the council thwarts them, forcing four women to boldly trek to the city on foot for official approval. Even this doesn’t end things, as offended Brahmin later try to sabotage the pipeline construction. Former film critic and documentarian Anwar Jamal’s first feature is heavy-handed at times, with some amateurish moments, but good lensing and music buoy activist message.