ASK THE SEXPERT is a feature length documentary about a highly popular 93—year-old sex advice columnist, Dr. Watsa, who writes for a daily newspaper in Mumbai. Despite sex being a taboo topic in that country, the column's brand of non—moralistic advice and humor has emboldened many to write in with their questions, the vast majority of whom seek basic information. The columnist gains popularity even while a ban on comprehensive sex education in schools is adopted by approximately one third of India's states.
Director/Producer Vaishali Sinha
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
I wanted to make a film about sex in India. After several years of making films on sexuality and reproductive rights, I felt the next story had to tackle the basics of education.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
This documentary captures and presents sex positive stories of everyday Indians. As a filmmaker who is also Indian, I had never seen anything like this on film.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
Sex and sexuality which is treated as a very private and personal subject in India (in a big way by the government), is ironically also one of the most universal and human experiences. But taboos in some fashion or the other exist even in the West. This impacts love, relationships, shaping of masculinity etc. Also the use of humor by my subjects—Dr. Watsa, a comedienne and a younger sex educator—is a tool in the face of censorships or resistance, also a universal experience. On a more intimate level, the film deals with very personal but universal themes of love, aging, and relationships. All of this is why the film has had tremendous global resonance and has traveled to Hot Docs, Sheffield, IDFA, Mumbai, Warsaw, Melbourne, Nepal and more.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
It took almost 5 years from concept to finish. In some ways I'm happy to say that some of the story plot ended up in line with my initial script idea on paper. This is less about forcing a story, and more about being from the culture and knowing loosely what to expect. But things you can't script that are out there to be found if you're lucky is 1) a personality (all my subjects were intriguing to me) and 2) the details of human interactions about to unfold if you're patient.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
The film and Dr. Watsa received a standing ovation at our Indian premiere. And the same week we received the Jury award for Best Documentary Feature at the uber cool New Orleans Film Festival. In November the film will screen at the prestigious IDFA as Best of Fests.
All of this feels like icing on an already amazing cake. I'm super humbled by the absolutely heartwarming reception at Hot Docs, Sheffield, Melbourne, Mumbai and more. All have embraced the sex-positive central subject with delight. All far exceeding my expectations for our gentle little film on a 93-year-old subject.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Always! There's always something to be awed by or to learn from.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
We hope to reach more interested audiences and beyond, as the conversation around sex education is more powerful when everyone has a seat at the table. Very excited about engaging with younger audiences.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Domestic distributor. And great journalists are always an asset!
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
It would be amazing to have this film be a jumping off point to talk about sex education and the need to create non judgmental spaces to discuss desires and dilemmas.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
What's the meaning of sex-education and who should provide it?
Interview: October 2017
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Ask The Sexpert
A sex advice columnist gains popularity after schools ban sex education.
Director: Vaishali Sinha
Producer: Vaishali Sinha, Mridu Chandra
About the director and producer:
Vaishali Sinha is a NY-based filmmaker who co-directed/produced the feature documentary Made In India. Ask The Sexpert is Vaishali’s second feature length documentary
Mridu Chandra is a NY based producer of award-winning documentary, feature film, and television productions. Recent projects include Out In The Night, and two shorts directed by James Schamus for the We The Economy series.
Key cast: Dr. Mahinder Watsa
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): distributors and journalists
Social media handles:
FUNDING PROVIDED BY
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Catapult Film Fund
Tribeca All Access
Hot Docs Forum
TFI/A&E IndieFilms StoryLab
Catapult & True/False Feedback Retreat
Where will the film screen in the next month?
DOC NYC followed by Film fra Sør in Oslo