Sisters Salakshana, Jeeti and Kira Pooni with their mother, Narinder (left), in a family photo of them in Williams Lake, the B.C. town where they once lived. (submitted photo: NFB)

Cariboo-filmed ‘Because We Are Girls’ to be streamed free on NFB website

Acclaimed movie among seven documentaries to debut at NFB.ca in July

A documentary with Williams Lake connections is among several films that will be available for free streaming on the National Film Board of Canada’s website this summer.

Baljit Sangra’s Because We Are Girls went live on nfb.ca on July 7.

The acclaimed feature-length doc was filmed in Williams Lake, Surrey and Cloverdale.

It tells the story of the Pooni sisters, the sexual abuse they endured as girls in Williams Lake and the lengthy court case that followed.

“After remaining silent for nearly two and a half decades, the sisters decide to come forward — not only to protect other young relatives, but to set an example for their daughters as well,” says a post on the NFB’s website.

Three years in the making, Because We Are Girls had its world premiere in 2019 during Toronto’s Hot Docs film festival, and later opened the DOXA Documentary Film Festival in Vancouver.

The 85-minute movie offers an empowering story about a conservative Indo-Canadian family coming to grips with sexual violence. The film also weaves in the moments of happiness and joy the sisters experienced as kids. In home movies, they are shown dancing, singing and celebrating weddings. In newer footage, they return to the playground at their former school in Williams Lake.

The film was screened in Williams Lake at Paradise Theatres in Novemeber through a collaboration between the National Film Board of Canada, the Williams Lake Film Club and Paradise Cinemas. A second theatre was opened to accomodate the sell out crowd.

Kira Pooni, Salakshana Pooni and Jeeti Pooni along with director Baljit Sangra were on hand to talk to the audience.

Paradise Cinemas owner David Hothi donated the screening fees, while the Williams Lake Film Club donated all of the proceeds from ticket sales to Chiwid Transition House in Williams Lake. The Women’s Contact Society also had staff available during the afternoon to provide resources, and to offer help, to anyone who needed it.

• RELATED STORY, from June 2019: Surrey sister reacts to stayed charges in sex-assault case profiled in doc movie.

(Story continues below video)

The NFB will be offering other films for free this summer, including Sandra Ignagni’s short documentary Highway to Heaven which will be streamed on the NFB’s website starting July 1. Shot on location along a one-mile section of No. 5 Road in Richmond, the 16-minute film takes a look at B.C.’s “Highway to Heaven” and its a multitude of faiths, including Buddhist temples, a Sikh gurdwara, Hindu and Swami temples, Shia and Sunni mosques, Christian churches, and Jewish, Islamic and Christian schools.

The films are among seven NFB documentaries that will be debuting at NFB.ca in July, joining the organization’s catalogue of more than 4,000 titles online.

• READ MORE: Self-isolating? National Film Board of Canada has over 4,000 free films online.

Also, three NFB interactive works are being featured as part of the Government of Canada’s online Canada Day Celebration Kit, “with entertaining and creative activities for the whole family,” the NFB says. They include the Joella Cabalu-curated First Photo Here, in an exclusive-to-Instagram project that focuses on new arrivals to Canada and the first photos they share with family and friends back home. The other interactive works are Parliament: The Virtual Experience (“With Centre Block closed for long-term rehabilitation, this innovative co-production opens the doors to the historical seat of Parliament”) and NFB StopMo Studio (“Create stop-motion animated films with ease”).


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