IN HER HONOR

Every year, untold tens of thousands of women around the world are killed every year for wanting to work, refusing to live in polygamy, asking for a divorce, not wearing traditional clothing, wanting to have a say about who they marry, or for pursuing an education.

They can also be killed for reasons that have nothing to do with their own actions. Rape victims are sometimes killed by the men in their families to restore family honor. An older husband strangled his virgin bride in bed because he was embarrassed by his inability to have sex with her. A young woman had her throat cut when her name was mentioned in a love poem on the radio.

■ Honor killings are most often committed by the men in the family—by fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and cousins of the victims, sometimes with help from the women of the family.

 Honor killings are sometimes disguised as suicides by offering a girl the terrible choice of death by her own hand swallowing pills or jumping out of a window, or being killed in a more painful and slow way.

 Many women who are killed for honor simply disappear and are never even reported missing, because it is the families who have caused the disappearance.

 

IN HER HONOR focuses on three stories intertwined over three acts—a Christian story, a Hindu story, and a Muslim story. The Christian story is important to include in order to inoculate the film against being commandeered by anti-Islamic groups. The film will reflect the range of cultures where honor killings are commonly found, but rather than focusing on places like Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Iraq, or India, the film focuses instead on crimes committed in the United States, Canada, Germany, and the UK.

The three stories will not be similar events in different cultural contexts, but rather stories chosen to illuminate very different aspects of honor killings and the consequences in the short- and long-term. The film will explore the psychological and historical roots of honor killings but won’t rely on talking heads or experts to do so; this information will come through the voices of the men who have committed these acts. These characters will speak not only about their lives, their families and their communities, but the details of their crimes and the aftermath.

IN HER HONOR explores beliefs rooted in thousands of years of history. It shows how these beliefs cause a cycle of suffering and damage to everyone involved—for generations.

IN HER HONOR challenges the tribal, religious, and family beliefs that justified these killings over the millennia, at their very root. The film covers some difficult emotional territory, but in the redemptive third act will tell a story that shows a powerful transformation.

A man who killed for honor—and who we meet in the first act and see again seeming to defend his actions in the second act—will describe his deep remorse, his journey to understanding, and his work to stop honor killings. He now risks his life to challenge a traditional view of women that he believes must be changed throughout the world. It’s a story audiences have not seen before and it shows that we can change ideas that are deeply destructive. The power of seeing someone who has become a global bogeyman transformed into a figure for whom we have compassion provides the emotional power of the film.

 

T H E    D I R E C T O R ’ S    V I S I O N

IN HER HONOR will be faithful to the facts of every story told and will also use the best tools of fictional storytelling to serve the artistic goals of the film. Documentary interviews with family members and those associated closely with each story will be included, but as a relatively small part of the film. The audience will be immersed in the reality of what happened as it happened in a cinematic style that was used successfully in theatrical documentary films such as Touching The Void and Man On Wire. It also pulls the audience into the intimate psychological experience of others in the way Waltz With Bashir was able to mine the depths of the memoir form on the screen.

The scenes of family life in IN HER HONOR will emphasize the kind of rich detail that brings an unfamiliar world close to the audience—as was so beautifully accomplished in the Academy Award-winning Born Into Brothels. Even interviews and b-roll will be shot with the same attention to rich filmic detail, so that all of the elements of IN HER HONOR will be equally polished. The stories of the film will be dramatically illustrated using the highest-quality production values, including professional actors and wardrobe, full crews, locations, and a cinematic score. We’ll take the audience into the lives of people who have strongly-held traditional views that may be very different from ours, but who are human beings living inside the kinds of emotional dynamics of family life that are familiar to all of us.

The film opens with an extended family gathered around a table eating in tense silence. After dinner, behind closed doors, a daughter who is not present is being discussed. It is she who has caused the family’s honor to be questioned by refusing the marriage chosen for her. She is dearly loved, but because she will not change her mind there is no other option.

 

The voiceover explaining these events comes from an interview with her father. He made the decision to kill her, have the family hide her body, and make sure her disappearance was unreported.

For the first time, IN HER HONOR turns the tables by focusing on the untold stories of the men who commit honor killings. It enters domains where men are the final authority, women have power only to the extent of their support of male authority, and murder is defended with the logic: “A man is like gold; when he is dirtied he can be washed clean. But a woman is like silk; she cannot be cleaned and must be destroyed.