ISLAMABAD: The Women International Film Festival was formally launched on Saturday at the WeCreate Centre in Islamabad.

The festival is being organised by Women Through Film, an organisation that aims to facilitate women film and documentary makers through training and workshops.

The festival will be held on March 10 and 11, 2017, to mark the end of women’s week. According to Women Through Film founder Madeeha Raza, the festival invites films made by and about women.

Ms Raza said her main inspiration for the festival and for Women Through Film as well, was the 60 Second International Film Festival, organised by Abrarul Hassan. Mr Hassan is also the founder and creative director at Morangofilms, and alongside Ms Raza, took part in a panel discussion held prior to the launch.

Ms Raza said the festival submissions should centre on the given themes, which include gender equality, education for all, and social ills such as domestic violence, child marriage and honour killings. She said more subcategories will be announced as research into themes goes on.

Documentary filmmaker Tazeen Bari suggested that rather than films by women and about women, the festival should take in films made by women on any topic. Valerie Khan also suggested that when it comes to submissions from minors, there should be a child protection policy in place.

The festival will accept submissions in various categories, including ’music video’, ‘documentary’, ‘avant-garde’, ‘animation’, ‘six second comedy’ and ’48 hour shoot-out’.

Ms Raza said women enjoyed going to the movies together, which gave her the idea to use film as a platform to bring women together.

A panel discussion was also held prior to the launch, comprising Ms Raza, Mr Hassan, Tazeen Bari, Valerie Khan, Nida Fatima Zaidi, Noreena Shams and Kirthi Jayakumar, who participated in the discussion via video link from India.

The panel discussed how film and filmmakers can empower women, with each panelist speaking from their own professional experience.

Ms Bari said it is a key to tell all stories. “It’s not about telling a story of woe or a success story, it’s about telling a story.”

Ms Zaidi, a director and producer with PTV, said some of her most important work has been work that highlighted ordinary women with extraordinary stories to tell, particularly those who work in rural communities.

Ms Jayakumar, a researcher and the founder of the Red Elephant Foundation, said one of the biggest reasons that keep women away from tech and film was the patriarchal approach to society.

Speaking about the common problems facing women in the Indian subcontinent and Afghanistan, Ms Jayakumar said it was about women helping other women. She said in her time working with women in Pakistan and in India she found it very effective to “build a sisterhood and... tell women that in many ways, you are also facing issues that they are facing except that the contexts are different.”

Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2016

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