More than 90,000 women accompany their spouses each year in search of the American dream, on an H-4 visa. Out of these almost 40 – 50 percent are Indian women. Once these thousands of educated women who are also doctors, lawyers, architects, business professionals, artists, etc. step into the land of the free, they realize that as an H-4 visa holder, they will not be allowed to work. They are forced to stay at home for an indefinite period of time – life becomes standstill as they find themselves losing their confidence, their self-esteem and identity. This is also what director Meghna Damani, the 32 year old media professional from Mumbai went through when she came to USA post-marriage, in 2002. She realized that she was not complete in this country despite being here for 5 yrs, because of her ‘dependent spouse’ visa status. Her urge to make the voices of H-4 visa holders to be heard was strong, and she decided to make a documentary about other women who shared her situation.
Meghna enrolled in the Documentary Media Studies Program at New school in New York, and interviewed several other women – all of this eventually turned into a 24 hour documentary called “Hearts Suspended”, the untold story of legal US immigrant spouses who are denied the basic human right to work, revealed through the filmmaker’s personal struggles. The film also happens to be the first film about H-4 women – South Asian lobbyists do not have this issue anywhere on their radar. H-4 visa holders are usually middle class with legal status; their plight is not seen as pressing. “These are people who are being brought in only in the most base function of women – housewives, babymakers and sex-partners”, says the film.
The 24-minute documentary was first screened at Brandeis University in Waltham during a conference on immigration and gender. The film was also an official selection for Mahindra IAAC Film Festival in New York, and the selection for the opening night for Ainaa Film Festival at Seattle.
Check out this heartrending clip from Hearts Suspended:
For more information about the film, check out www.heartssuspended.com.