“Issues of women all over the world seem to be surprisingly similar,” a long-term delegate of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), a woman, told me after watching a Kazakh film.
While a lot of movies are made on women’s issues and feature female actors who have gone ahead and become stars of their own right, why do we still have such a pathetically small number of women filmmakers, particularly in our country?
In retrospection, the 22nd IFFK organised a two-day workshop for ‘Empowerment of women in cinema’ that saw practising or aspiring filmmakers attending sessions on topics ranging from cinema and womanhood to the ground realities of funding and script pitching. Renowned film programmer and film festival adviser Uma Da Cunha, along with Basil Media Content, a major film sales and festival strategies outfit, partnered with the initiative.
“What is essential is overcoming barriers, which are more internal than external when it comes to how women are conditioned by patriarchy in our country,” said award-winning filmmaker Arunaraje Patil on the need for such a workshop. “A spectrum of opportunities is open to you, especially with the advent and proliferation of technology. Women are exploring their inner calling from such a young age without familial pressure.”
She says over her 15 years in the field, making meaningful cinema and mentoring young filmmakers, she has seen how cinema has shaped mindsets. “Stalking, for example, was made to look cool by our heroes, so society thought a man stalking a woman to win her love was acceptable.”
The vision of a roomful of women discussing the nuances of a modern, technology-based art form that has largely, and ironically, remained male-dominated in itself sparked excitement. And it was palpable among the participants. During tea break, Hyderabad-based Jennier Alphonsse, whose short films have won international awards, tells me, “I took to filmmaking because visual media is a weapon. But it is a peculiar situation where you need other people to realise your dream. I am looking to more areas of networking, funding, especially.” At a session on ‘Scripting-Packaging and Pitching’, screenwriter and documentary maker Urmi Juvekar told the participants how important it was to contextualise a theme while narrating a story idea.
Pitch it right
“It is attitude that makes you succeed,” she said, adding that there was no need to appear needy. “People want to make movies, and are in search of good themes, that’s why they make time to hear you.”
“The workshop was an eye-opener,” said Soumya Sadanandan, who is currently working on her debut feature. “There were some very insightful sessions. A film has innumerable possibilities and the world is not enough. It’s about the appropriate contacts and receiving the right direction that places a film at platforms where it rightfully belongs to,” she added.
Rosemine Beegum from Kozhikode, whose directorial debut is in the pre-production stage, said the workshop provided her a great opportunity to meet leading filmmakers and new-comers alike. “My film is going to have new actors and I hope the friends I met here could help me with a lot of aspects such as casting.”
More importantly, people with field knowledge shared with the participants how to approach the film festival circuits and the possibilities of crowd-funding.
Arunaraje, in the beginning of her career, had to field questions from journalists about how a super hero like Vinod Khanna could take ‘orders’ from a petite female like her. She said film sets have come a long way from the days when men found it difficult to accept a woman directing them. “I have found women assistant directors to be more meticulous,” she added.
At a time when freedom of expression is at peril and gender-based violence is on the rise, more women at the helm of movies could create a radical shift in mindsets.