From the director
LITTLE STONES follows four women whose lives are dedicated to empowering survivors of gender based violence and eradicating the atrocities of domestic violence, human trafficking, extreme poverty and female genital mutilation. These women are therapists, activists, missionaries, and entrepreneurs.
These women are artists.
Art is what drives these four women, provides an avenue for self-expression, and allows them to heal other women and girls in their communities. Each artist featured in LITTLE STONES is a creative visionary, and I wanted to tell their stories with the same aesthetic care as they give their own life’s work, which is why I selected Meena Singh as the film’s cinematographer. Singh has a background in narrative filmmaking, and our plan was to approach the photography of LITTLE STONES from a cinematic view, focusing on detail and aesthetics, playing with visual transitions and juxtapositions, and interweaving the four stories through a compelling visual narrative. From the hazy orange skies in Sohini’s Kolkata to the hot pink paint of Panmela’s graffiti, the bright primary colors of Anna’s Kenyan prints to the dry hot yellow desert sun of Senegalese villages on Sister Fa’s tour, viewers get a taste of traveling around the world, hearing stories of social injustice that are strikingly similar while culturally unique.
Singh and I traveled alone with our camera gear or occasionally with the support of a local interpreter or driver. In this way, we were able to take a fly-on-the-wall approach to our subjects; safe and intimate, without making the women feel self-conscious about being filmed. We stayed close to, or in some cases, in our subjects’ homes, being granted intimate access to their personal lives. This approach allowed us to capture previously unseen footage inside India’s government shelter homes, villages in rural Senegal, and heart-wrenching interviews with sex-trafficking and domestic-violence survivors. We tried to make our subjects feel comfortable by working with only female interpreters and an all-female production team, ensuring interviews and verité scenes were honest and emotional in societies where genital mutilation, prostitution, and even sexuality are taboo.
I wanted to continue to highlight the work of female artists by selecting women to perform the film’s key creative post-production positions. Sundance Composing Lab alumni Amritha Vaz wrote an original score featuring female Gambian kora player Sona Jobarteh and female bansuri player Sheela Bringi. Karoliina Tuovinen was the film’s finishing editor, and a nearly-all female team at Technicolor studios finished the film’s color correction and sound mix. In short, LITTLE STONES is a film about women who are using art to create social change, by women artists who believe their creativity can help other women in their own communities, and around the world.
The film’s title comes from suffragist and women’s rights activist Alice Paul’s 1974 quote, “I always feel the movement is a sort of mosaic. Each of us puts in one little stone.” The sentiment, that we all have a role to play in the global fight for equal rights, to me perfectly encapsulated the work of each artist featured in the documentary, and my own goals for LITTLE STONES. I hope the documentary encourages creative dialogue and expression around issues of global gender based violence, and that through Driftseed, the 501c3 non-profit organization which Singh and I founded during production, we will continue to grow the mosaic of the women’s movement, stone by stone.
Director, LITTLE STONES