In all, 28 women directors were part of the international festival
It’s perhaps no coincidence that Habibi by Susan Youssef, a young woman filmmaker of Lebanese origin, won one of the three prizes at the recently concluded 5th Bangalore International Film Festival (BIFFes). After all, films made by women were quite a draw at the weeklong festival.
Among the much-talked about films at the festival were Ivan’s Woman by 29-year-old Francisca Silva and See you Dad by Lucia Carreras. What added to the charm was the presence of both these directors at the festival. The hit on the last day of the festival was Nadine Labaki’s Where do we go now? set in a strife-torn Lebanese village, which is saved from annihilation thanks to the wisdom, camaraderie and good humour of the women of the village.
In all, 28 women directors were part of the film festival, though some films like Clip by Maja Milos could not finally be screened due to technical reasons.
The festival also had a retrospective on French actor Juliette Binoche, which included a documentary on her by her sister, Marion Stalens. Though 28 might seem like a small number in the 185 films screened, it is a sizable presence compared to a decade ago.
Most women filmmakers were young and came from varied ethnic backgrounds, a sizable number among them from what are regarded “conservative” societies. For instance, Ms. Youssef has said in an interview that she “chose film over family”, defying the family’s dictate to get married.
Clearly, issues of gender are important for many of them, though it emerges in a wide variety of complex contexts. “Many of these films talk about women’s issues in the context of oppression and strife. What emerges is a belief that women are more clued into ground realities, and, therefore, respond differently and sensibly,” says N. Vidyashankar, Deputy Artistic Director of the festival, citing Where do we go now? and Meryanne Zehil’s Valley of Tears as instances.
This does not, however, mean that women deal with what are stereotypically categorised as “women’s subjects”, adds Mr. Viyashankar. “Films like Clip and Night 1 by Ann Emond were marked by bold sexual content,” he points out.
Girish Kasaravalli, whose Koormavatara won the best Kannada film prize at the festival, says that there was an interesting diversity in the films made by women.
For instance, In a better world by Suzanne Bier was about the modern world’s penchant for violence, not necessarily from a gender perspective.
Kasaravalli points out that the presence of women directors from India is relatively less. But for Devika Daftardar, who co-directed the Marathi film Samhita, there were no films by Indian women at the festival.
Jaimala, actor and former president of Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC), says that what these young women bring to cinema is also a certain “enthusiasm and commitment”, which was infectious at the festival. The film festival itself was directed by Tara, actor and now chairman of the Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy.