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Yes Madam, Sir wins 2 docu prizes at Santa Barbara

“Sure I enjoyed Kate Winslet and Penelope Cruz talking the about their approaches to acting, but nothing had the emotional and inspiring impact of YES MADAM, SIR, a true story in which a woman named Kiran Bedi valiantly fights to reform India’s police service,” said Barney Brantingham of the Santa Barbara Independent, a veteran columnist who has covered the festival since its inception in 1985.

Hot on the heels of 'Slumdog Millionaire' comes YES MADAM, SIR, the non-fiction feature film about India's most controversial revolutionary, Kiran Bedi, has taken the two top documentary prizes at Santa Barbara Int’l Film Festival (SBIFF). Narrated by Academy Award© winner Helen Mirren, YES MADAM, SIR quickly emerged as one of the widely touted ’hot list’ films during its US Premiere at the 24th SBIFF. It took a clean sweep of its award categories – “Best Documentary” and the Fund for Santa Barbara’s “Social Justice Award,” during a year where Santa Barbara had its strongest and largest slate of documentaries. The much coveted prize for the Best Doc is a 35mm print, and with interest from US distributors and one offer already on the table this doc is poised for broader horizons. The Fund’s award is a cash prize of $2,500.00. YES MADAM, SIR has thus far secured a theatrical release in India and Australia. Of her SBIFF wins Doneman exclaims, “I am truly honored to be among the line-up of such an impressive slate of films. I understand what the filmmakers have gone through to bring their passion to the screen and they all equally deserve to be awarded."

When the non-fiction feature made its world premiere at Toronto Int’l Film Festival as an official selection, it enjoyed sold-out houses and standing ovations at each of its screenings. Richard Kuipers stated in his VARIETY review from TIFF, "YES MADAM, SIR” is an enthralling chronicle of Kiran Bedi's brilliant, tempestuous career as India's first elite policewoman. Granted unrestricted access to Bedi for six years, Aussie doc maker Megan Doneman has created a dynamic and editorially rigorous profile of this adored public figure, whose radical methods and running battle with bureaucracy made headlines from 1972 until her retirement in 2007…debutante Doneman multitasks with distinction...”

The key subject, Kiran Bedi quickly made her name in one of the world's most corrupt police forces, by single-handedly standing down a riot of thousands of sword-wielding protestors – after all her colleagues had run away. When asked if she was frightened Bedi stoically replied, “No, I was very focused.” Ms. Bedi went on to famously and controversially tow-away the leader of the country’s illegally parked car. When asked why, she replied, “One law is for all, and I hold everyone accountable.” Soon branded a troublemaker, Bedi was transferred to a slew of ‘punishment postings’ and eventually landed up at Tihar Jail, Indian’s largest and most notoriously corrupt prison. Understanding she was being sent to the prison to “disappear,” Bedi knew she could “help the prisoners recover themselves.” The historical and revolutionary reforms Bedi introduced landed her an Asia Nobel Peace Prize, and another unceremonious exit.

Even more exciting in YES MADAM, SIR is to watch India's super cop at home as a daughter, wife and mother. Her husband comically exclaims, “She is very scary. She is impossible to live with!” The intimate footage has been beautifully captured by the one woman-band, Australian filmmaker Megan Doneman. This first-timer would travel to India sporadically over six years, in between working as an assistant editor on such Hollywood blockbusters as “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Doneman had heard of Bedi since she was a child from her mother (Laraine Doneman, fellow producer) and wondered why the rest of the world didn’t know about this Indian icon. Bedi chose Doneman over many other filmmakers to tell her story, and after seeing her dramatic life packed into 94 minutes, the feisty Ms. Bedi exclaimed, “I forgot I was watching myself. I started to feel so much for this character traveling through this relentless roller coaster of triumph and frustration, comedy and tragedy.” Doneman adds, “This is not just an Indian story. It is a universal, timeless and inspiring story about standing up for your convictions and never giving up. During today's difficult times, this story gives us all hope.”


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