Combining stunning footage of Nepal with unprecedented access to the People'sLiberation Army, WOMAN REBEL tells the story of "Silu," a female solider from a poor farming family in the Gorkha District, who eventually becomes a democratically elected government official. She defies the wishes of her family, including a brother in the government forces, to join the rebel fighters. The women in the Maoist rebel forces demand the right to receive an education, to own property, to seek justice in domestic abuse cases and to become equals in village government.
Silu decided to join the Maoist rebel army, which later becomes one of the parties in Nepal's multi-party democracy, at age 18 after her older sister Kumari, who was trapped in an abusive arranged marriage, took her own life. Says Silu, "I want to prevent other women from the same fate as my sister."
At the training camp for the People's Liberation Army, other female fighters show off their injuries and talk about losing friends and husbands. In a wrenching scene, Silu is asked what she would do if she faced her brother, who has been part of the government army for 17 years, in battle. She wavers, but finally admits, "I will have to do what my party says. We can't disobey our party, even if he is my brother."
After the war ends in a peaceful resolution, Silu and others are able to reemerge into society under their real names. Born Uma Bhujel, she says, "Our war is not yet over. We are going to fight in a new way. Do the Nepalese have food to eat? Do the Nepalese have clothes to wear?" In 2008, Silu is elected to office in the Gorkha District in the new constituent assembly, where the Maoists have won the most seats, and the assembly is 33% female. Silu trades her uniform for a suit and celebrates the progress they have made.
Silu returns to her village after 12 years away from her family for a joyous reunion marked by singing and dancing. Her father says, "My daughter used to say we needed revolution, and my son used to say stop the war. It seems my daughter was right." But when her mother is asked if she wants a girl grandchild or a boy grandchild, she replies, "A son, of course."
In May 2009, after power-sharing conflicts, the Maoists leave parliament. However, Silu continues to fight for equality and wants the next generation to continue the struggle, proclaiming, "Women have always faced discrimination and violence. I want a daughter who will continue to fight against that."
Kiran Deol, director and producer of WOMAN REBEL, flew to Nepal to start making the film the day after graduating from Harvard University. "I wanted to showcase a story about women as agents of change - as opposed to victims of circumstance," she says.
WOMAN REBEL is executive produced by Robert Richter, whose credits as aproducer, director and writer include the Oscar®-nominated "Father Roy: Inside the School of Assassins" and the Emmy®-winning HBO documentary "White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki." WOMAN REBEL is directed and produced by Kiran Deol; executive produced by Robert Richter; cinematography by Siddhartha Shakaya; edited by Aaron McAdams; original music by Chris Thomas. For HBO: supervising producer, Sara Bernstein; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.
August 18 on HBO2