Inaugurating the two-day Fourth IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival in New Delhi, Dr Vatsyayan, Chairperson of the India International Centre Asia Project said that the observance of the International Women’s Day had both ‘deep positive and negative messages’ since it drew attention to the inequities among the genders even as it had the avowed objective of empowerment. She added that the documentary had the ripeness to highlight various important issues as it had the capacity to cheer and to disturb.
Eminent film critic and historian Aruna Vasudev, who is also founder President of the Network for Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC), wondered whether the pronouncements made by political leaders on International Women’s Day were mere lip service. She stressed the power of cinema to inspire people to make a change in society.
In her message read out on the occasion, Jocelyne Josiah of UNESCO said women still remained highly under-represented in all fields and this was of great concern to UNESCO. She called upon the media to let women handle the editorial content of the media on the International Women’s Day tomorrow, a project that UNESCO has been supporting for the last eight years.
The International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) has been organizing this Festival for the past four years. The aim was to celebrate the vision of women through film. The festival reflects how women film makers explore reflect, negotiate, resist and document self , family religion ,political, social, cultural, environment. The IAWRT is presently concentrating on two projects, under the broad theme ‘Violence and Women’. One project was on “Enforced Disappearances” and the struggle of Kashmiri women for human rights and the second on ‘Trafficking of Women in Nepal , India and Bangladesh’.
Around 25 films from five countries were screened in the festival being held in collaboration with the IIC Asia Project and UNESCO on the theme ‘Insights and Aspirations’. They included features documentaries and animation films from UK, Japan, Pakistan, and the United States besides India.
The festival featured, “Mortality TV and the Loving Jehad by Paromita Vohra. The film looks outside the Breaking News and covers the complex dynamics of fear of love, scrutiny and control of women’s mobility and sexuality and the feudal mindsets. “Lakshmi and Me” by Nishtha Jain explores her changing relationship with Lakshmi her part-time maid, “Word Within The Word” by Rajula Shah in her film shows how Kabir, the mystic poet resonates with ordinary lives today. Madhushree Dutta in her film “Scribbles on Akka” looks at the bhakti and rebellion of the 12th century poet Mahadevi Aka. Chandra Siddan enquires into her first marriage when she was a child and many more films that inspire.
Haruyo Kato captures her mother who is dying of cancer in her film . A film that that inspires as it challenges the ravages of the disease
Each screening was well attended by students from local media institutes and colleges .
The distinguished filmmaker Paromita Vohra revealed her approach to filmmaking , she said she opened up many windows so people can go in and out without being judgmental. Academics/ professionals spoke about their concerns in popular music culture and struggles in human rights . Truly an inspiring fare . Other filmmakers shared their experiences and discussed the emerging trends in documentaries.
Some of the underlying questions during the festival examined whether women are creating a new language of filmmaking, which reflects, and explores new politics of filmmaking, and how women are widening the frame for issues concerning women.
Overall, recognizing the critical need for a forum that can sustain the form of documentary as well as women’s contribution to this unique form, the festival showcased documentary films created by women, covering a range of genres and expressive styles.
The author is Managing Trustee at IAWRT.