When filmmaker Sowbhagyalakshmi Areke first moved to the United States from her native India, she expected to find a place where women's oppression was a thing of the past. "I used to think that all women in America were liberated or equal to men," she said.
She learned otherwise from a television news program that featured victims of domestic violence who told their stories wearing disguises and using distorted voices. "I thought, 'Why would a woman want to hide her face?' It was news to me that women in America could be hit by a man."
It so puzzled Areke that she spent the next two years producing "Spouse Abuse: A Global Perspective," a 60-minute documentary featuring the names, faces and stories of nine women from nine countries who are victims of abuse by their husbands. She collaborated on the project with her husband, Olaniyi Areke, an Emmy-award-winning filmmaker from Nigeria whom she met while both were getting master's degrees in film from Howard University.
The couple runs Majestic Pictures, a film production and distribution company. In addition to raising her two small children from the couple's homes in Clarksville and Greenbelt, Sowbhagyalakshmi Areke travels periodically to India to work on her current project: a film about the history of Indian pottery.
In her native India, the film industry had an unsavory reputation. "Usually Indian women from decent families do not get into film, so I was hesitant," she explained. In India, she received degrees in history, philosophy and ancient Indian languages and made a living teaching. For seven years, she was a writer and editor for Indian Express, an English language daily newspaper.
"Not everybody has the time to take up a paper and read," Sowbhagyalakshmi Areke saids, referring to her erstwhile newspaper career. "The audiovisual medium is even more powerful."
CAPTION: Sowbhagyalakshmi Areke is a filmmaker who moved to the United States from India.