A Film by Petr Lom
When a Kyrgyz man decides to marry, he often abducts the woman he has chosen. Typically, he and several friends hire a car, stake out his bride-to-be’s movements, snatch her off the street, and take her to the groom’s family home. A delegation is then sent to her family. The abducted woman is held until someone from her family arrives to determine whether they will accept the "proposal" and she will agree to marry her kidnapper.
BRIDE KIDNAPPING documents in harrowing detail four such abductions, from the violent seizures on city streets and the tearful protests of the women, who are physically restrained and persuaded to accept their fate by the women of the groom’s family, to the often tense negotiations between the respective families, and either the eventual acquiescence or continued refusal of the young women.
While two of the four women accept the forced marriages and later seem happy in their new relationships, one young woman fiercely resists and is finally released hours later by her captors, while the fourth kidnapping ends tragically, with the young woman dying under mysterious circumstances.
Subsequent interviews with the kidnapped brides, their families as well as their in-laws’ families-sensitively conducted by the film’s Kyrgyz Associate Producer, Fatima Sartbaeva-reveal both the deep cultural roots of the tradition as well as growing rejection of it in this newly independent and rapidly modernizing society, especially by young women who wish to continue their education.
Although bride kidnapping has been illegal in Kyrgyzstan since 1994, it is a law that is rarely enforced, and one in three rural ethnic Kyrgyz women have been forced into such marriages. BRIDE KIDNAPPING is a remarkably illuminating look at what will seem to most Westerners, apart from the most committed cultural relativists, as a shocking social custom but one that, at the same time, raises provocative questions about the nature of love and marriage.
"Successfully conveys the social and cultural complexity surrounding this recently revived practice… The power of this film lies in its rich visual storytelling. A persuasive and intimate profile."—Visual Anthopology Review