The many roles of women

Namrata Joshi tells you what to look out for at a film festival dedicated to women.

Published - February 16, 2016 08:34 am IST - Mumbai

The tale of five young orphaned sisters in a remote Turkish village, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s Mustang is the frontrunner for the best foreign film Oscar this year. About impetuosity and rebellion brewing in confinement and conservatism, the film examines the role-playing women are expected to adhere to in a patriarchal set up and is up for a view in Mumbai this week at the FICCI FLO film festival on women’s empowerment and social change.

Organised by FICCI Ladies Organization (FLO), the Women’s Wing of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), at the Films Division Complex, Peddar Road it will showcase other celebrated films like Fatima , Tales and Siti , international documentaries including I am a Girl, and there will be the world premiere of She Objects from HongKong Women’ s Foundation. The films cover a diversity of themes like gender sensitivity & equality, women’s empowerment, sexual abuse, girl child education, wellness and economic independence, and have been sourced through reputed international and Indian organisations and institutes like Women Make Movies, ITVS, TISS, Whistling Woods.

In a clutch of interesting films a few stand out as must watch. Some like Shonali Bose’s Margarita With A Straw may have been released commercially but could well do with a repeat viewing. Rakshan Bani Etemad’s 2014 feature film, Tales , winner of the best screenplay award at the Venice International Film Festival, knits together seven different vignettes of every day problems (including those of gender) in modern Iran. Phillipe Faucon’s immigrant drama in French and Arabic, Fatima, focuses on the trials and tribulations of Fatima who is bringing up two teenaged girls in an alien country, getting by despite not knowing the language quite well. Eddie Cahyono’s Indonesian film Siti gets a bit downbeat. It is about a poor woman forced to take to prostitution to support her family after her husband gets paralysed in an accident.

In the documentary section Rebecca Barry’s I Am A Girl explores a range of gender-related issues by following the lives of six teenaged girls in the United States, Australia, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Cameroon, and Papua New Guinea. The HK documentary She Objects is on the objectification and stereotyping of women in media and how the young consume these images and get influenced by them. Another must watch is Paromita Vohra’s Morality, TV aur Loving Jehad: A Morality Tale which takes off from Meerut Police’s infamous Operation Majnu, of catching and arresting lovers in city parks, and then goes on to examine the larger moral policing of love. It cocks a snook at the society’s self righteousness, the easy humiliation of the other, of seeing love as something forbidden and criminal than normal.

Elisa Paloschi Canadian documentary Driving with Selvi is about South India’s first female taxi driver, how she escaped from an abusive child marriage to being a single, independent mother. Being in control of the steering wheels then becomes a metaphor for her self-dependence. Bisakha Dutta’s Taaza Khabar is about Khabar Lahariya, the newspaper put together by women in rural Uttar Pradesh. Deepa Dhanraj’s Invoking Justice is about a unique women’s alternative to the jamaats , the all male bodies that settle family disputes by applying Islamic Sharia without allowing women to defend themselves. Women’s jamaats allow them to speak and be heard. Gitanjali Rao’s silent animation, True Love Story , is all about the romance between a flower seller and a bar girl.

Films won’t be all at FLO festival. There will also be interactions with women filmmakers and a global symposium presented by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender In Media. There will be two workshops on how film impacts issues affecting women and children and another on the art of storytelling for social change and empowering women and girls through films. Veteran journalist Deepa Gahlot will do a presentation on some of the strong female characters portrayed in Indian cinema down the ages.

The festival is on till February 20. Registration fee: Rs 300 for students; Rs 500 for general audiences. See flofilmfestival.com for more details

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