The 9th edition of the Asian Women’s Film Festival was held recently

The 9th edition of the Asian Women’s Film Festival organised by International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) took place at the India International Centre recently, coinciding with the International Women’s Day. The festival included a range of genres – from animation and documentary to short and feature film.

The festival started under the IIC Asia project and was conceived as a space for Asian women to share their work. The festival focuses each year on two Asian countries. While last year the curators chose Japanese and Turkish films, this year the focus was on films from Iran and South Korea.

Special focus

Anupama Srinivasan, festival director and secretary, IAWRT, said “I’ve had a long association with Iranian cinema. I used to run the Iranian Film Club and I learnt Persian because I loved Kiarastomi’s films. My co-director Uma was interested in South Korean films, so she’s curated a package of long documentaries from South Korea.”

The selection from Iran illuminated the varying contours of Iranian cinema, in the news lately in the context of Argo being awarded an Oscar, and for the incarceration of acclaimed filmmaker Jafar Panahi before that.

While Colours, a four-minute-short by Naghmeh Dehgani, skilfully portrayed the effect of domestic conflict on a child’s psychology, 20 Fingers by Mania Akbari, a 72-minute feature film composed of seven shorts and just two actors, exquisitely portrayed the divergent point of views of men and women in Iran on sensitive issues such as friendship and family.

Other sections

The South Korean selection included American Alley, which looks at the lives of migrant women who live and work as entertainers in GI clubs in Dongducheon area and The Girl Princess, which looks at traces of Gukgeuk, a type of Korean musical with an all female cast, which enjoyed a golden age during the 1950s, among others.

Another highlight of the festival was its selection of student films. Curated by documentary film-maker Samina Mishra, the selection included films by students from TISS, FTII and Whistling Woods among others.

In addition, the festival also hosted an installation titled “Shame Was a Place Inside My Heart” at the IIC Annexe. Created by Priyanka Chhabra and Manmeet Kaur, the installation explores the psychology of the emotion of shame, where it originates and how it comes to make a home inside women’s minds. A seminar on “Community Radio and Democracy in South Asia” was also held.

Anupama finds a more substantial presence of women in documentary cinema. “Because of the lower budgets, it is easier to have creative control. And I think a lot of women are opting for it for that reason. It’s not because they can’t handle feature films, but because there are too many compromises one has to make in there,” she said.