I have to begin this I Am Sirat review with a full disclosure: I am not someone who seeks out documentaries. I can admire and appreciate their subject matter and the technical talent that goes behind documentary storytelling, but it’s just never held much appeal to me over fictional stories. However, when I heard that Deepa Mehta is collaborating on a documentary about an Indian Trans woman, with the woman herself, I had to check out I Am Sirat. And I am so glad I did, as it’s a very compelling, almost autobiographical documentary, that moved me a lot. Read on for my I Am Sirat review from TIFF 2023.
I Am Sirat Told From Sirat’s Lens
The documentary credits the directors as both the subject of the documentary, Sirat Taneja, and the acclaimed filmmaker Deepa Mehta. Which in and of itself is kind of a unique approach. The reason is that Sirat herself shot part of the film using her cell phone camera. Actually, most of the compelling and moving moments of I Am Sirat come from Sirat. It’s a completely hybrid approach that allows Sirat to tell her story, about her life, and her feelings, in her own way.
The reason why I can’t resonate with some documentaries is because the filmmaker’s agenda, or bias ends up bleeding through the storytelling process. Which happens to pull me out of the story. However, the objectivity of a documentary is well preserved in I Am Sirat, by the subject herself telling the story. With the help of critically acclaimed filmmaker, Deepa Mehta. I was impressed at how simple and uncomplicated I Am Sirat was, both as a story and the person herself.
I Am Sirat Focuses On The Person And Not The Issues
The movie documents the everyday life of a Trans woman living in New Delhi, India, and her struggles with identity and acceptance. The biggest twist of this story, however, isn’t that Sirat is seeking acceptance from the world or society, but instead, just her family. Namely her mom. Sirat Taneja lives her life as a woman in every aspect, professionally, socially and in the world as a whole. However, when home with her mother, she has to live as a man. Her family’s inability to accept her as a woman forces Sirat to live this double life.
It’s a surprising reversal of what you would expect the usual story about identity to be. Especially a story coming out of India, where historically, tolerance and acceptance haven’t been the easiest for many people. It was very informative to learn about, not only Sirat’s life, but the Transgender community within India. As a South Asian there are a lot of myths and straight-up misinformation that have subconsciously seeped into our understanding of these issues. I am very glad that Sirat herself is able to educate the world on the progress India has made as a nation and society when it comes to the rights of Trans people. All the while still leaving room for a lot more to come.
A Moving Story Told With Heart And Power By Sirat Herself
But even taking away all the issues and the awareness and education that I can praise in this I Am Sirat review, at its heart, the movie is about Sirat by Sirat. And hearing Sirat discuss her struggle with validation, not from the world, but from her own family, her mother, is heartbreaking. It’s an inspiring story told with a lot of heart, that is sure to resonate with audiences all over the world. Audiences from all over will relate and share in Sirat’s journey, her struggles and her joys. It’s a beautifully moving story that may inspire or embolden others’ journeys as well.
I Am Sirat premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival 2023.
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I AM SIRAT Review: A Documentary Told From The Subject’s POV
- Acting - 5/105/10
- Cinematography/Visual Effects - 6/106/10
- Plot/Screenplay - 9/109/10
- Setting/Theme - 8/108/10
- Watchability - 9/109/10
- Rewatchability - 7.5/107.5/10