A Journey Of A Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers is a documentary film that follows Farida Parveen, Mousumi Sultana and Rehana Parvin, three Muslim female police officers from Bangladesh, as they spend a year in Haiti as part of an all-female peacekeeping force sent from their country to support MINUSTAH (the United Nations Stabilization Mission In Haiti).
The women's job is dangerous. Haiti is still unsettled after the 2010 earthquake that killed at least 100,000. On top of that, distrust of U.N. peacekeepers remains high owing to a belief they were the cause of a massive cholera epidemic between 2010-12.
Amidst this, these women are tasked with patrolling Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, responding to riots, demonstrations and high-risk situations, all with training that's sometimes dangerously inadequate. On top of it all, these women face enormous pressures — religious, cultural, financial —from back home. A Muslim woman doesn't abandon her family to go halfway around the world, after all.
Captured in honest and illuminating fashion by directors Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (the Academy Award-winning Saving Face) and Geeta Gandbhir (two-time Emmy Award winner), these women face powerful trials — Farida's husband distinctly doesn't want her to be there, Rehana's mother is gravely ill and her son is edging increasingly towards religious extremism — and yet they still pursue their duties. It's an incredibly difficult series of circumstances these women must navigate.
When A Journey Of A Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers showcased at this year's Toronto International Film Festival Samaritanmag spoke to director Geeta Gandbhir, executive producer Irfan Izhar and RCMP Sgt. J.J. Hainey about the film and what it was like for these three women to pursue this.
What was it that drew you to this story to want to make a documentary about it?
Geeta Gandbhir: I work in social justice films, it's my passion, and about four years ago I read a story in the New York Times about the FPUs (Formed Police Units) of Indian women who were deployed from India to Liberia. At that time it had been happening for about 10 years and I had never heard about that. It was fascinating to me. I'm originally from India, my family is from India, and it kind of shattered all the stereotypes I had about women in my country.
And then Sharmeen [Obaid-Chinoy] and I, we've always c