When I saw the trailer for Tigers I immediately wanted to get to a screening. If you've read my book, you'll know how passionate I feel about women's right to choose how to feed their babies with information and support, and without the influence of marketing. I discovered my nearest screening was in London and so I sadly waited for the DVD release. Then, I was made aware that a viewing had been organised by a local Lactation Consultant in Canterbury, at the Gulbenkian Theatre. Not only that, but there would be a Q&A session afterward from one of the film's writers and a representative from Baby Milk Action. I could...not...wait.
So, yesterday I met a friend at the Gulbenkian (I was late, thanks to driving my kids through the Kentish countryside so they could be looked after by their grandparents). I was immediately thrilled to see so many ladies with babies in carriers. I suppose that, ordinarily, you wouldn't be too thrilled at the prospect of a cinema full of babies, but I know only too well how often mums miss out on events that matter to them due to dependent babies. In case you were wondering, babies can go to any film rated U, PG or 12A. The bubbas were all snuggled in and barely a peep was heard from any of them all evening.
Tigers is in English and Hindi (with English subtitles) and features the incredible acting talents of Bollywood star Emraan Hashmi, Geetenjali, Satyadeep Misra and Bond girl Maryam D'Abo. It was directed by Oscar-winning Danis Tanovic (for no Mans Land) and was co-written by Andy Paterson (one of the producers of Girl with a Pearl Earring)
Tigers begins in 1994 and is the story of Ayan, a salesman for Lasta. Ayan schmoozed medical professionals and hospital representatives to drive sales, and he was good at it. He was given 'Impress money' to pay for goods to win over medical representatives. Ayan earned more money to support his family and enjoyed a higher social standing. Dr. Faiz, a doctor that Ayan works with, travels to Karachi to study a Masters degree and there he learns that the cause of many infant deaths from diarrhoea is infant formula being prepared in unsanitary conditions. When Faiz returns from Karachi he shares this knowledge with Ayan, who, as a father himself, is horrified to have played a part. Ayan then begins to take action against Lasta. Through a series of events. Ayan faces dangers to himself and his family and the road to seeking justice is not a straightforward one.
Tigers is a dramatisation of the story of Syed Aamir Raza Hussain and his campaign against Nestle, which is easily found with a quick google. Tigers is cleverly made as an examination of the making of the film itself, showing the necessity for water-tight proof of the story and the legal issues in the whole process. The name of Nestle was changed to represent that these issues exist with other companies too, but I also thought it was good to not be giving Nestle's products screen time if unnecessary. I also thought the character of 'Maggie' was a clever combination of three or four different members of IBFAN. The film questions the reliability of Ayan's evidence, which adds a fascinating perspective.
This film is tremendously hard-hitting. It shows the power that multinational corporations wield and the difficulties in implementing change. Many people are aware of the Nestle boycott and the issues in Africa in the 60s and 70s, but this film shows that the story continues. I found it particularly powerful that the footage of sick babies used in the film was recent.
The Q&A that followed the screening was fascinating, with Andy Paterson who co-wrote the screenplay and Patti Rundell of Baby Milk Action. In particular, I found it interesting that a previous attempt to make the film, 12 years ago, was stopped.
This film is not in big cinemas all over the country, I saw it in an art-house cinema, at a University. at a screening that was independently organised. Tigers can be streamed online if it's not showing near you (or you could arrange a screening) and will soon be available on DVD. But, I thoroughly recommend that you see it. It's thought-provoking, superbly made and beautiful.
For more information visit http://www.babymilkaction.org/tigers