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article imageReview: Nothing is too taboo in Hot Docs’ ‘Ask the Sexpert’ Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Apr 29, 2017 in Entertainment
‘Ask the Sexpert’ is a charming film screening at Hot Docs about a nonagenarian who writes a sex advice column in India.
In spite of the many strides made in the area of human sexuality, contraception and reproductive rights, there are still those who believe sex is too taboo to discuss under any circumstances. The ultimate fallacy of this belief is that if you don’t talk about certain acts, people — particularly young people — won’t participate in them. However, statistics around abstinence-only education has shown adolescents don’t have less sex than their informed counterparts; but they do experience more negative consequences. Ask the Sexpert chronicles the efforts of a small group striving to have candid conversations about sex and remove the stigma surrounding it in India.
In a country of 1.2 billion people, it’s a wonder sex is still a taboo subject. But since 1974, Dr. Mahinder Watsa has been spearheading initiatives for sex education and counselling in the country. The 91-year-old gynecologist has become somewhat of a celebrity, answering intimate questions via a Mumbai newspaper’s sex advice column read by millions. Without judgement but a healthy dose of humour, Watsa addresses inquiries about premature ejaculation, masturbation, fetishes and other topics people may be too embarrassed or repressed to talk about in-person; yet, his reputation keeps a steady stream of patients arriving at his door. Unfortunately, not everyone appreciates his work as one moral crusader uses archaic indecency laws to file a court case against Watsa and the newspaper.
Director Vaishali Sinha demonstrates the importance of Watsa’s work in a number of ways, from the unexpected admiration of his fans to the people he helps to those he’s inspired to do similar work in the public realm. The questions he receives are shown to range from the typical and mundane to the bizarre and outrageous, though he answers all of them with equal honesty. Watsa is a charming character who engages audiences for the length of the film with his spirit and endurance, while others who support and have learned from his work provide a slightly broader perspective of sexuality and related education in India.
The world premiere of Ask the Sexpert is screening as part of the “Singular Sensation(s)” program at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival.
Director: Vaishali Sinha
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