‘This film had to be made’: the incredible story of India's women boxing champs is going on demand
Documentary film directors Ameesha Joshi (BFA 05, MFA 12) and Anna Sarkissian (BFA 05) began working on With This Ring soon after graduating from Concordia’s undergraduate film production program. With the help of many friends and volunteers, they completed filming in 2012.
The documentary follows the lives of three Indian women boxers who become world champions. Their choice to box involves endless hours of gruelling training and is met with a lack of acceptance from their families, culture and country.
With This Ring premiered at the Mumbai International World Film Festival in 2016. It has since screened in India, Europe and North America. Joshi and Sarkissian won the award for Emerging Director (Documentary) at the Asian American International Film Festival in New York and the Festival’s Choice Award for Best Documentary Film at the New Jersey Indian International Film Festival.
Now, after spending more than two years hosting screenings around the world, the duo is set to release With This Ring to the public online via Vimeo on Demand. This interview with the filmmakers was conducted in 2017 when they hosted a screening at Concordia.
‘I've always been interested in women's lives and stories’
I never knew boxing was such an important sport for some women in India. How did you find out about this?
Ameesha Joshi: I discovered them randomly when I was at a World Press Photo exhibit in Montreal in 2005. I saw a photograph of a woman practising and I was intrigued. I thought to myself, “There are women boxers in India?”
After that, I did some research. There was next to nothing about them on the internet, but I did find out they were some of the top boxers in the world!
When did you realize you had to make a movie about this? What spoke to you about this project?
AJ: I actually went to India later that year for a family trip. I was there for a month, and I told my mom, “I can’t explain it, but I just need to find and meet them.”
So I went to Chennai to see these women training in person and get a sense of what they were like. I thought, this film has to be made. I came back to Montreal and shared this with Anna, who agreed.
Anna Sarkissian: I've always been interested in women's lives and stories, so I was really excited to help with the project once Ameesha told me about it. We found out there would be a world championship in Delhi in 2006, so we booked last-minute flights to go document the competition. It was the best decision we could have made.
The film paints a very intimate and touching portrait of the three boxers’ experiences. Was it hard to get the women to speak about their lives and culture?
AJ: It was the biggest challenge that we had in the making of this film. It took years for them to understand exactly what it was we were doing and for us to gain their trust.
When you can’t speak the language, it’s very hard to get to know others on a deeper level and get them to open up.
AS: We had very limited resources so we couldn't hire a translator to travel with us. We made do using broken Hindi and broken English. As the boxers got to know us and figured out we weren't going away, they began to open up more.
How did Concordia help you in making this film?
AJ: The Film Production Program offered a really solid foundation. It taught us a lot and really broke open the documentary form artistically. CUTV also lent us their camera for one of our production shoots.
AS: Mariella Nitoslawska had a big impact on my desire to make films and my overall approach. I took a second-year documentary film class with her which exposed me to different ways of using the form to tell a story. I'm very grateful for her feedback and encouragement.
With This Ring will be available for rent or purchase online December 11. Find out more about the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema.