The screening of “India’s Daughter” at Baruch College began Monday with a vigil as Oscar-winner Streep lit about a dozen candles honoring the Indian medical student who died after being gang-raped on a bus in 2012.
Organizers said about 650 people attended the event.
“Tonight we light these candles to honor the value and the work of Nirbhaya’s short, promising life,” Streep said. “She was India’s daughter. Tonight she’s our daughter too.”
The woman was attacked when she and a male companion boarded a private bus in Delhi.
The documentary details a brutal account of how six men beat her friend and then gang-raped her in the bus before tossing her onto the street. She was found naked on the side of the road and later died of her injuries.
Four men were convicted and sentenced to death for the rape and murder.
The victim’s parents have publicly named their daughter and have said they want the world to know about her plight.
“Ultimately, this is a film that needs to go out,” said Pinto, the Indian actress known for her role in “Slumdog Millionaire,” who does not appear in the film. “This is not a shame-India documentary.”
The film’s US premiere follows a week of controversy in India.
The uproar centered around comments made by one of the convicted rapists interviewed for the film. He blamed the victim for taking a bus late in the evening.
“A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night. … Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes,” he said.
The documentary, by British filmmaker Leslee Udwin, herself a rape victim, was to have aired on an Indian television station on Sunday, International Women’s Day, but a court order halted the broadcast. Instead, the station showed a blank screen.
It was done in the interest of maintaining public order, according to Indian authorities.
“India’s Daughter” first was screened in Britain on a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) channel last week.
Indian viewers cannot see it on the BBC website, but it can be seen on YouTube.
“This film in no way is propagating violence in order to solve the problem. In fact, what we’re saying is let’s do this in the most civilized possible way ever,” Pinto told The Associated Press before the film’s screening.
“This is not just an India problem; this is a problem that inflicts almost every country in the world,” she said. “There’s not a single country in 2015 that is free of sexual violence against women.”