Sonejuhi Sinha is a phenomenal writer, director, producer, and editor. She has gone from editing award-winning documentaries, to writing and directing her own films, including the Cannes Film Festival presented short film “Love Comes Later”.
In 2019, her directorial feature debut “Stray Dolls” was released. Taking place in an American motel, the film follows Indian immigrant and former ex-gang member Riz as she tries to restart her life and live the American dream. But she soon finds herself lost in a web of crimes, and comes to realise that the American dream may not be all that.
One thing we found particularly mesmerising was how none of the characters in Stray Dolls were perfect-they all had flaws and strengths just the same. Even though this is pretty common to see in many white male led films, it is becoming increasingly rare for movies with female and BIPOC lead movies.
“Right now, if you look at the landscape of what’s in the media, what’s in film… Well, first of all, you see that most of the directors and writer-directors are white men. The stories so far that we have been watching of people of color, people who are marginalised and underrepresented, fit into such a small box.
And then you look at our society. And there are so many issues of socioeconomic disparity, racial inequality, and gender disparity. You start to realise that we are not seeing these characters as fully human! A fully human person gets to have flaws as well as strengths. They get to have weaknesses as well as things we root for.
It is that whole range, that whole spectrum, that unless you don’t see all of it, you are not going to accept them as fully human.
They become these archetypes, or these victims or survivors, or people that we feel pity for. We don’t see them as our contemporaries, we don’t see them as someone that we fully relate to.
I think in my storytelling, it is really important to create these characters – and especially characters that are people of color or from underrepresented communities – that are fully formed. They make messy human decisions, just like anybody else – like the white people we have seen doing for decades! They get to make those mistakes, but then they also have redeming things that you sometimes root for, but then sometimes you don’t agree with them! I think that whole push-and-pull is so important to realise people as fully human, and also to provoke your audience, and push them to see characters that they have never seen before.”Sonejuhi Sinha, #11 | Creating Flawed Characters with Sonejuhi Sinha, Making It: Women in Film.
If you want to listen to the rest of our wonderful and insightful conversation about the necessity of diversity behind the screen, how documentary editing affected her narrative in storytelling now, and why more writer-directors should look into producing, then you can listen to it now on all major podcast platforms (Spotify, Apple, Google, etc.).