At first glance, the dichotomy in The World Before Her seems strange: the main subjects are all young women in India, but leading radically different lives. Some are contestants in the annual Miss India pageant. Others are rural girls attending a camp run by Hindu fundamentalists.
Director Nisha Pahuja draws a startling comparison between the limited choices of these young women. Girls in the pageant bleach their skin and strut along a beach with their heads covered by sheets at a leg contest sponsored by a razor company, while girls at the fundamentalist camp learn to shoot rifles and memorize disturbing violent rhetoric. The viewer walks away with a chilling sense of what feels like independence for these women. Our only frustration with this film was the lack of outside analysis—all the subjects have a stake in one or the other of the organizations, and we were left wondering how these two extremes fit into the fabric of modern India.
~ Haley Cullingham