Actor Radhika Apte‘s film Liberté: A Call to Spy, in which the actor is playing the role of spy Noor Inayat Khan will finally get a release this fall. IFC Films recently acquired the rights to the award-winning film directed by the Oscar-nominated documentary producer Lydia Dean Pilcher. The film depicts the lives of three such unsung female heroes of World War II, including Virginia Hall (Sarah Megan Thomas) and Vera Atkins (Stana Katic). The story has Apte playing a British spy of Indian origins, who was a part of Churchill’s special spy agency.
Women Spies and Noor Inayat Khan: The Lesser-Known Histories
At the onset of WWII, Winston Churchill ordered formation of a new spy agency, the Special Operations Executive (SOE), to recruit and train female spies. Their mission was to conduct sabotage and build resistance against Axis forces. Consequently, the agency’s “spymistress” Vera Atkins recruited two unusual candidates: a Muslim Pacifist named Noor Inayat Khan and an ambitious American with a wooden leg known as Virginia Hall. Together, these women managed to compromise the Nazi regime in France.
Lydia Dean Pilcher’s film is one of the first attempts to capture the lesser-known story of these female spies.
Noor Inayat Khan was born to an Indian father and an American mother. She joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in 1940, and later joined SOE as a radio operator. She went to France as an undercover spy and kept sending messages back to London while avoiding capture. The story goes that Khan was betrayed by a Frenchwoman, and that resulted in her capture. She even managed to escape from prison but was recaptured a few hours later. Khan was later shifted to a prison in Germany. Despite repeated torture, she refused to reveal any information. She was then transferred to a concentration camp where she was finally shot dead.
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The story of these spies, like many other women contributors, went largely undocumented in history. The push to include the names of these female spies in popular narrative is a very recent phenomenon. The figure of Vera Atkins was made famous by Ian Fleming: Miss Moneypenny in the James Bond franchise is an inspiration of Atkins. On the other hand, Noor Inayat Khan’s character made a special appearance in the recent season of Doctor Who.
About the Film
Lydia Dean Pilcher’s film is one of the first attempts to capture the lesser-known story of these female spies. It made its world premiere at the 2019 Edinburgh International Film Festival. It also won awards at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and the Whistler Film Festival. Since the major circuits closed down during COVID-19, the film never got a chance for big-screen release. But looks like it is finally about to get its due recognition as the American film production and distribution company IFC plans a fall release.
Also Read: Five Badass Female Spies Who Stepped Into Enemy Territory Undeterred
In an interview, the EVP of Acquisitions and Productions of IFC Films Arianna Bocco said, “It’s rare to find a war movie with one complex female character – let alone three, as in A Call To Spy. We’re thrilled to bring their film the attention it deserves.”
“Their stories are more relevant today than ever. Happy to be working with IFC Films, a longtime champion of independent vision,” said Pilcher.
Sarah Megan Thomas added, “I am thrilled to be teaming up with IFC on this story about real female heroes. We look forward to sharing with the world a film that humanizes brave people from different countries who came together in a time of crisis — understanding we are all in this together.”
Dyuti Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV.