A film by Kim Longinotto

UK/India | 2013 | 89 minutes | Color | DVD | Tamil | Subtitled | Order No. 131091


When Salma, a young Muslim girl in a south Indian village, was 13 years old, her family locked her up for 25 years, forbidding her to study and forcing her into marriage. During that time, words were Salma’s salvation. She began covertly composing poems on scraps of paper and, through an intricate system, was able to sneak them out of the house, eventually getting them into the hands of a publisher. Against the odds, Salma became the most famous Tamil poet: the first step to discovering her own freedom and challenging the traditions and code of conduct in her village.

As with her other work (PINK SARIS, ROUGH AUNTIES, SISTERS IN LAW), master documentarian Kim Longinotto trains her camera on an iconoclastic woman. Salma’s extraordinary story is one of courage and resilience. Salma has hopes for a different life for the next generation of girls, but as she witnesses, familial ties run deep, and change happens very slowly. SALMA helps us understand why the goal of global education of girls is one the most critical areas of empowerment and development of women worldwide.


"3 1/2 *** Highly Recommended...This deeply emotional and inspiring portrait highlights the ongoing struggle of South Indian women to become educated and reject repressive traditions."

M. Puffer-Rosenberg Video Librarian

"SALMA feels like a dispatch from the social-justice front, a profile that in many way symbolizes women’s resistance to a developing world that hasn’t caught up with developments in gender equality.”

John Anderson Variety

“A beautiful and tragic film… It's evident that change for women is bubbling at the surface, and it is thanks to the work of extraordinary women like Salma who are consequently demanding that change.”

Fariha Roisin Huff Post Media

“A story of rare achievement – a Muslim woman who writes her escape out of family servitude in southern India. Given the furore over the recent Delhi rape scandal and the glaring lingering injustices of village, SALMA will travel widely.”

David D'Arcy Screen Daily

"It's incredibly powerful when you are left with the heaviness of a complex reality… While Salma's successes and continued influences on women's lives are powerful forces, the battle is not won. The film does a beautiful job showing that."

Leigh Kolb Bitch Flicks


  • Documentary Edge Festival, Best International Feature and Best International Director
  • Berlinale, 2nd Place Audience Award
  • Stuttgart Indian Film Festival, German Star of India
  • Stuttgart Indian Film Festival, Best Documentary
  • Nominated, Prix Europa
  • International Human Rights Films Festival, Tunis, Best Film
  • Grierson Award, Nominated Best Documentary on a Contemporary Theme - International
  • Tempo Film Festival Sweden, Honorable Mention
  • FEMCINE Chile
  • Mumbai Film Festival
  • Dominican Republic Film Festival
  • Costa Rica Film Festival
  • Antenna Film Festival
  • Docville Film Festival
  • Films from the South
  • Women's Film Festival Armenia
  • Flying Broom Women's Film Festival
  • International Women's Film Festival Seoul
  • It's All True Film Festival
  • Human Rights Film Festival, London
  • Human Rights Watch Film Festival, NY
  • Documentary Edge Festival
  • San Francisco International Film Festival
  • Movies that Matter
  • Berlin International Film Festival, Second Place Panorama Audience Awards
  • One World Film Festival, Prague
  • Sheffield Film Festival
  • Rencontres Internationales de Documentaire de Montreal
  • Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival
  • Seattle International Film Festival
  • Sarasota Film Festival
  • Cleveland International Film Festival
  • Durban International Film Festival
  • Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival
  • Sundance Film Festival


Kim Longinotto

Kim Longinotto (born 1952) is a British documentary filmmaker, well known for making films that highlight the plight of female victims of oppression or discrimination. Longinotto studied camera and directing at the National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield, England, where she now tutors occasionally.

Longinotto was born to an Italian father and a Welsh mother; her father was a photographer who later went bankrupt. At the age of 10 she was sent to a draconian all-girls boarding school, where she found it hard to make friends due to the mistress forbidding anyone to talk to her for a term after she became lost during a school trip. After a period of homelessness, Longinotto went on to Essex University to study English and European literature and later followed friend and future filmmaker, Nick Broomfield to the National Film and Television School. While studying, she made a documentary about her boarding school that was shown at the London Film Festival, since when she has continued to be a prolific documentary filmmaker.

Longinotto is an observational filmmaker. Observational cinema, also known as direct cinema, free cinema or cinema verite, usually excludes certain documentary techniques such as advanced planning, scripting, staging, narration, lighting, reenactment and interviewing. Longinotto’s unobtrusiveness, which is an important part of observational documentary, gives the women on camera a certain voice and presence that may not have emerged with another documentary genre. She has received a number of awards for her films over the years, including a BAFTA for her documentary PINK SARIS.

Among her more than 20 films, she has followed a teenager struggling to become a wrestling star in 2000’s GAEA GIRLS, challenged the tradition of female genital mutilation in Kenya in 2002’s THE DAY I WILL NEVER FORGET, and told the story of an Indian Muslim woman who smuggled poetry out to the world while locked up by her family in 2013’s SALMA. In 2015's DREAMCATCHER Longinotto looks at the life and work of a former sex worker who rescues Chicago girls from the street.

Her new film SHOOTING THE MAFIA, premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. (3/19)


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