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International Woman’s Films Festival

By Purva Desai

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First it was Vikalp (films for freedom) that celebrated freedom of expression of documentary filmmakers all over the country. Now it is the International Women’s Film Festival, the first of its Kind in India that will celebrate the freedom of expression of women filmmakers across the world. Presented by Star Movies, the festival aims at celebrating women filmmakers. Coinciding with International Women’s Day on the 8th of March, this festival will showcase the work of five women directors from 5th-9th March, 7:00 pm at Y.B Chavan Pratishthan. This festival will also travel to other cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai, Trivandrum and Banagalore and will conclude on the 23rd of April. Organized by Point Of View, a non-profit organization that was formed in Bombay in 1996, the group aims to promote the point of views of women through a sustained and creative use of media. This non-profit organization believes that “..Women have a point of view on issues that affect them- a point of view that can effect positive change at both the individual and societal level. However, the point of view is usually ignored, dismissed or overlooked..” and their aim is to change that.

Being an all woman team, this festival was made possible by Bishaka Dutta, (film maker), Shilpa Hingorani (entrepreneur), Anuja Ghosalkar (festival co-coordinator) Gopika Kapoor, (press co-coordinator), Aditi Mittal (Festival Coordinator) and Urvi Parekh (web site coordinator). Vishakaha Dutta spoke to the audience and confessed ”For me this was personally the aha moment! It was very appropriate to host an international film festival to see the different point of views of women .We want to promote good cinema first and forememost”. The festival was inaugurated at the Y.B. Chavan center yesterday by noted filmmaker Aparna Sen, Mr.Shantaram, (Vice President Of Federation Of Film Society Of India) and Sudhir Nandalkar. In the words of Mr.Shantaram, “Our aim is to promote good movies. We would like to show the world a woman as a successful filmmaker”. The festival also showed rare archival footage of the Alice Guy films on the inaugural day yesterday. Alice Guy is believed to be the world’s first woman filmmaker.

The first film to be screened at the festival was Samira Makhmalbaf’s 'The Apple’. This film was directed when Samira was only 18. She completed the film in just 11 days! She was the youngest filmmaker in the world to participate in the official selection of the Cannes film festival in 1998. This film has been screened in more than 30 countries. She also won a Golden Peacock for her film ‘At Five In The Afternoon’. The Apple follows the aftermath of a real life situation in which a father had kept his 2 daughters confined to their home since birth. The film sojourns into the world of two little girls, Zohra and Massoumeh. The film is shown from their perspective, both as children and as girls. This film has to be credited for its depiction of the lives of two young girls, who have no contact with the outside world. It is only after a complaint from the neighbors, that the Tehran authorities free the girls. They promise to give them back to the parents only if they take good care of their children. And in the end, it is this apple that sets them all free. Very cleverly the film has been titled ‘The Apple’ and one almost thinks of Eve instantly. In this case, it is the apple that tempts two little girls to taste the fruit. But the temptation is not restricted to taste itself; it is a temptation to see the outside world, a temptation to see life beyond the bars of a window. This film dances on the line separating fiction from documentary, refusing to separate the art of film from the experiences of individuals living their lives.

Today Aparna Sen’s film ’36, Chowringhee Lane’ will be screened at the Y.B. Chavan Pratishthan. Actress, writer and director, Aparna Sen made her debut as an actress in Satyajit Ray’s ‘Teen Kanya’. Other films directed by her are Paroma, Picnic, Sati, Yugant and Paromitar Ek Din. Her latest film ‘Mr. And Mrs. Iyer’ won the 2003 national awards for best director, best screenplay, best actress and best film on national integration. ‘36,Chowringhee lane’ depicts the solitary life of an ageing Anglo Indian, Violet Stoneham, played by Jennifer Kendall who lives in Calcutta. Her obsession is Shakespeare, which she teaches to young schoolgirls. She gets close to a couple, who become her only contact with the outside world. Confronting her inner most demons and past memories, the story takes another turn. Jennifer Kendall won the 1983 Evening Standard British Film award for best actress and a Bafta nomination for best actress in the same year. When asked if she was a woman filmmaker or just a filmmaker, Aparna Sen replied ”Just a film maker. I don’t distinguish myself on the base of gender”. She further stated, “We haven’t been exposed to films made by women. A woman views violence differently than a man. Its time we had a look at the way women perceive the world. Violence is always depicted from a man’s point of view. “

‘36, Chowringhee Lane’ will be followed by Vera Chytilova’s film ‘Daisies’ on 7th March at 7;00 pm at the Y.B. Chavan Pratishthan. Vera Chytilova won a nomination (Palme d’Or) for her film ‘Fruit Of Paradise’ at the Cannes Film Festival. 8th march will showcase Lucrecia Martel’s film ’The Swamp’. Martel won several international awards for her film ‘Rey Muerto’ in 1999. She also received the Sundance /NHK filmmakers award for her screenplay, ‘La Cienaga’. And the festival will conclude with Jane Campion’s ‘Sweetie’. Campion won a screen writing Oscar and the Palme d’Or at Cannes for ‘The Piano’. All five award-winning filmmakers have conveyed their messages through their films. And this explains the receptiveness of the audience that was present at Y.B. Chavan Pratishthan yesterday. There was no place to contain more people. It was a concoction of all kinds of people ranging form artists to intellectuals to college students who appreciated the event very much. All efforts are worthy of being applauded! The event promises to be an eye opener. And yes, for once women can have what they want!


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