The 15th edition of Asian Women’s Film Festival organised by International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) was recently held at the India International Centre (IIC), New Delhi. The three day festival showcased over 50 films from 20 countries including Armenia, Bangladesh, Iran, Sri Lanka, Syria, Turkey, and India, among others. “An important theme of the festival is the Female Gaze
We have had conversations about why we need a women’s film festival and why there a need for such segregation. But it really is not about that. IWART celebrates the way women filmmakers look at their subjects. And while they are looking at it how do they look inside within their own narratives,” explained the festival director Gauri D. Chakraborty.
Special attention was given to putting together the programming grid for the festival. “Ever since I got appointed as the festival director the idea was to plug in as many films as possible from diverse groups. Being an educationist myself I have gauged that the students who are making films these days, especially the women filmmakers, they are of a different age altogether and their perspective to life is very different. So when we opened the call for the festival we received an overwhelming response of 755 entries from 37 countries,” revealed Chakraborty who was chuffed by the strong footfall at the festival.
The selection committee comprising educationist Jeroo Mulla and filmmakers Iffat Fatima and Anandana Kapur had a tough job at hand. After carefully scrutinizing the 700 odd entries they were able to put together a general programming package of about 13 hours duration consisting of a wide array of films ranging from animation to non-fiction to short fiction to experimental.
The film festival also featured 12 hours of other films in form of curated packages viz. Female Gaze by Bina Paul, Childhood by Samina Mishra, and one on the Northeast titled Seven Sisters by Supriya Suri. The segment called Soundphiles by Shikha Jhingan endeavored to focus on the power of sound as an artistic expression. Also there was another segment on films from Georgia (a country at the intersection of Europe and Asia) by Smriti Nevatia.
Filmmaker Divya Unny whose film ‘Her First Time’ about a young girl’s first period was screened as part of Mishra’s segment on childhood talked about the importance of imparting sex education. “My prime motivation was to highlight the fact that we don’t have conversations about menstruation, not between mothers and daughters, not between father and daughters, not between mothers and fathers.
A very unique film titled ‘Daughters of the Polo God’ was screened as part of Suri’s segment dedicated to the Northeast. Directed by Roopa Barua, the film focuses on women’s polo in Manipur
An issue like this is usually brushed under the carpet. Even our education system devotes little or no time to it. And that’s why it is important to ensure that we have more such conversations,” asserted Unny.
A very unique film titled ‘Daughters of the Polo God’ was screened as part of Suri’s segment dedicated to the Northeast. Directed by Roopa Barua, the film focuses on women’s polo in Manipur. Barua’s film is tribute to the young, fearless maidens whose love for polo, traditionally a male sport, gave birth to an international polo tournament in 2016.
Since then the tournament has grown considerably with the 2019 season featuring teams from countries like Canada, Kenya, Argentina, and the US. The documentary film is a follow up to Barua’s previous film ‘Riders of the Mist’ which documents the century old tradition of bareback wild pony racing in Jorhat, Assam.
Other than offering an important lineup of films, the 15th IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival also touched upon issues of urgent relevance by hosting a Roundtable on the #MeToo movement, a panel discussion on the Female Gaze, a work shop on gender mainstreaming for adolescent girls. Another major attraction at the festival was an art installation titled ‘Bioscopewalli’. Conceived by Chakraborty and mounted by design students and artists, the innovative installation employed a bioscope as a tool to elicit contemporary questions about gender while simultaneously impacting knowledge about the history of cinema.