Boutique U.K. sales agent Espresso Media International has acquired rights for Deepti Gupta’s feminist documentary “Shut Up Sona,” featuring popular Indian singing star Sona Mohapatra.
Produced between 2016 and 2019, the documentary chronicles Mohapatra’s life between sold-out concerts as she speaks out against sexual harassment and patriarchy in deeply conservative India.
“Shut Up Sona” debuted at the Mumbai Film Festival in 2019 and has since had a stellar run in 2020 including playdates at Rotterdam, Goteborg, Hot Docs and Sheffield.
The film is produced by Mohapatra for Omgrown Music.
“As a female artist and performer, I get a lot of love from my young country and yet have a battle on hand everyday,” Mohapatra told Variety. “This battle includes being morphed on to porn sites, being subjected to gang rape and acid attack threats and yes, sitting around in police stations too. I believe that women need to take charge of their own narratives and also create a sisterhood that backs each other.
“There is a lack of feminine perspective in the stories being told, films being made and songs being sung in our culture and most of us women end up being cast in secondary roles in various fields, get paid lesser for the same value that we bring on board and do the bidding of our patriarchs and male bosses; please them, be the pretty face, voice or puppet in a system largely run by the brotherhoods,” Mohapatra added. “Waiting and competing for these rare and compromised opportunities was not an option any more in my life and it is the reason I decided to turn film producer: to take charge of my narrative and take my daily hustle to a world stage.”
” ‘Shut Up Sona’ is about a feisty female singer often told to shut up- it’s about using one’s art as protest and the price women pay for it,” said Gupta. “For me it was cathartic, an act of love and a war cry at the same time.”
“I am grateful to HotDocs director Shane Smith for helping me navigate sales and partnerships through Doc Shop and for being there to help and advise anytime I needed,” Gupta added.
Espresso is representing the documentary at the Cannes Virtual Film Market, as well as Sunnyside of the Doc, MIPCOM, IDFA, Sheffield and the Shanghai TV festival.
“In particular what struck the team at Espresso was that the film heralded a very important Indian issue on women’s voices being heard in India against a backdrop of male dominated music performances,” Espresso managing director David Hooper told Variety. “This is a story about both a woman’s courage to stand up for other women as well as a backdrop on a very important artist in Indian culture today. Our catalogue has increasingly represented women’s stories both from the point of view of the subject matters as well as the producers and directors behind the cameras.”
Espresso is looking to make a sale to one of the major worldwide digital platforms and/or key public service broadcasters.
Espresso’s recent slate includes “5 Days That Saved a Nation,” “Iconicity,” and “Jamal Khashoggi: Murder in the Saudi Consulate.”