'I want her story to be heard': documentary on Maple Batalia makes Canadian debut

Maple Batalia is remembered in a new documentary that tells her story through her friends and family. It screens at the Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival.

Jasleen Kaur was in film school when Maple Batalia was killed in 2011

Maple Batalia wanted to be a doctor, but was also a talented artist, a model and an aspiring actress. She was 19 years old when she was killed. (Facebook)

Jasleen Kaur didn't know Maple Batalia personally, but after learning of her tragic death she decided to make a documentary about her life, using the voices of her family and friends.

The film, Maple: A Documentary, will make its Canadian debut on Saturday at the Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival.

Batalia, who was shot and killed in 2011 by her ex-boyfriend Gary Dhaliwal, was a Simon Fraser University student and aspiring actress. She was 19 years old.

"Just like her parents, I want her story to be heard and I want people to see what can happen if you don't help your friends, if you don't understand the dangers of all these red flags that were coming up," Kaur said.

Dhaliwal, who admitted to shooting Batalia and slashing her with a knife, was sentenced to life in prison in 2016.

Kaur, who was in film school when she started the documentary, saw many similarities between herself and Batalia. She wanted the film to serve as a memorial, but also as a tool to shed light on domestic violence.

"I want people to understand that domestic violence and gender inequality are big issues that need to be talked about, and I don't think they're talked about enough, especially [in] the South Asian community."

'An emotional journey'

Kaur said she was grateful Batalia's family was open to her making the film.

"It was an emotional journey for all of us."

Kaur interviewed Batalia's family and friends. Eventually, a detailed picture emerged about Batalia's relationship with Dhaliwal.

"It was textbook domestic violence, red flags," she said.

"The problem is they were all so young that they didn't really pick up on it, so her friends didn't really see that it was going on and she was also really good at hiding it."

Kaur said the Batalia family was close to the Dhaliwal family but no one in either family understood what was going on until it was too late.

"A lot of time in South Asian families, kids keep their relationships secret, but Maple was really open with her parents and she told them all about Gary, but not the extent of the abuse so it was only what they could see."

High schools have contacted Kaur about using her film as an educational tool about the dangers of abusive relationships.

"I also want people to see Maple and see that as somebody who was so ambitious, so determined. she was going after all her dreams — and maybe be inspired to do that themselves."

With files from The Early Edition

Jasleen Kaur made a documentary about Maple Batalia, even though she didn't know her personally, because she saw their lives as similar and she wanted to shed a light on domestic violence and gender inequality. 6:22