When Nocem Collado set out to make her study of widows in India, Afghanistan and Nepal, loneliness was the least of her worries. Language barriers, antifeminist societies, and complete lack of women’s rights meant that the film was almost doomed from the start. It was through sheer tenacity that Cartography of Loneliness even exists.
A look at abandonment, rejection and abuse, Cartography of Loneliness doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of being a widow in the third world. Uncovering some shocking truths from women otherwise dead to society, Collado exhibits a strong social conscience without preaching to the audience. To see how these women are ostracised, through no fault of their own, because of a husband’s death, is horrific but Collado never uses sympathy as a device. She remains objective, channeling the issue through her subjects.
Although shocking, the true extent of how widows are treated is never forced. We never see the horror these women have to endure. The majority of the information is given through voiceover, with women very rarely talking on camera. A solitary voice amongst crowded streets.
A select few have started organisations in each country to provide shelter for these women. They are taught skills and given an education so that they can support themselves, finding solidarity. However, these groups are only a small step towards women’s liberation in misogynistic cultures. But in every pit of darkness, light will shine through, no matter how small.