‘A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness’ Summary & Analysis – Our Own Reflection


A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness is an HBO documentary film of 40 mins. It is directed by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and follows the story of Saba, a 19-year-old Pakistani girl. 

‘A Girl in the River’ Summary

Saba wanted to marry a guy named Qaiser. Saba’s family had issues with her marrying the guy, as he did not belong to the same financial strata and the family too didn’t have the same social standing as Saba’s family. The father and uncle wanted to marry her to a person of their choice. But Saba didn’t listen to them. Without telling them she went and did a court marriage with Qaiser. The father and uncle, though infuriated more than ever, realized that they cannot do much now. So they went to Qaiser’s house and asked Saba to come with them so that they at least get to do the rituals properly and marry her according to the customs. It was a respite for the couple that despite the hurdles, they could now live in peace. 

But Saba’s father and uncle had something else in their mind. On the way back they stopped their car on a deserted road near a river. Both of them started beating her mercilessly. The whole charade at Qaiser’s house was done to take Saba out of there. 

The father took out the gun to shoot her. The plan was to kill her and dump her into the river. But at that point, some divine intervention happened. She resisted and the bullet which was destined to pierce her temple area got misfired and brushed her cheeks, leaving her severely wounded but not dead. The family got paranoid. Too scared to fire another round, they put her inside a sack, tied it, and threw her into the river. 

As Unpredictable as Life

We think that we understand life. We think that everything could be backed up by reasoning and logic. But where logic ends magic starts and life finds ways to surprise us in the most extraordinary manner.

Somehow the knot opened by itself and Saba was able to come out from the sack she was put into. Almost lifeless and experiencing agonizing pain, Saba crawled back to life. Doctors treated her and the police authorities started to investigate the case. 

The father and uncle were clueless and dumbfounded, so as to how the girl survived. They were put to jail and Saba filed a case against them. 

Law and Order

These two words, law, and order form the foundation of any democracy. But often we see that in any civil society a mockery is made out of the law and order due to the existing lacunas in the legal systems. In Pakistan, such cases of honor killing are not considered culpable homicide amounting to murder. If the parties reach a compromise then the accused are released from prison. 

In this case, society forced Saba and her husband’s family to reach an amicable compromise. Everybody except Saba was of the opinion that the father and uncle have done no such wrong that they should rot in the prison. And so eventually she is coerced to take back the case against her father and Uncle. 

An Abysmal Ideology 

On asking the father whether he was ashamed of what he had done, he replied that he was anything but ashamed. He said that he was proud of what he did. He said that his daughter had sinned by marrying a person of her choice and that it was a conscious choice of pulling the trigger as he couldn’t let anybody fiddle with his respect and honor. 

His unabashed behavior makes you realize how deeply rooted this flawed ideology would be. It makes you shiver down your spine. This man who tried to kill his own daughter has the audacity to stand in front of the whole world and proclaim that what he did was morally right. He is sure that this would in turn bring more honor to his family. After getting released he also tells that now he is getting more offers of marriage for his second daughter as a society now knows that this is a man who takes his honor seriously. 

This story is not exclusive to Pakistan. It is not about the fragile legal system as it is about flawed human psychology. It can happen anywhere. Till the time our brittle honors will keep breaking by the consensual acts of two adults, Saba will keep dying. A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness is a hard-hitting documentary that should not be missed.

A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness is a 2015 Documentary Short Film directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. It is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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