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ISLAMABAD: Three days after International Women’s Day, the Women International Film Festival began on Saturday.

Organisers described it as the first event of its kind in Pakistan, saying it was designed to recognise and highlight women in the film industry. The event was organised by the organisation Women Through Film and held at the National Art Gallery auditorium.

According to event organiser and independent filmmaker Madeeha Raza, the festival received nearly 100 entries from around the world. A total of 17 films by women from countries including Nepal, Malaysia, India, Bangladesh, Nigeria, the United Kingdom and Pakistan were selected by a jury from within the media world.

Filmmakers were asked to create short films, documentaries, public service messages and animated films on themes such as gender equality, violence against women and women of wonder.

The jury included producer and director Marilyn Agrelo from New York, Pakistani television and film director Anjum Shahzad, Pakistani documentary filmmaker Haya Fatima Iqbal, UK-based activist Mandy Sanghera and Pakistani film and music video director Yasir Jaswal.

The best film entered into the festival was judged to be Statement after my Poet Husband’s Death, directed by Ashique Mostafa from Bangladesh.

The short film portrays the emotions of a recently widowed woman after the death of her husband, a poet. Members in the audience believed that the documentaries and short films were beautifully made, edited and produced, and a few felt some would easily win international awards.

“I was extremely inspired. I particularly liked the heavy symbolism used to convey messages in the two films I enjoyed the most,” said Afaaq Bashir, a mechanical engineering student at the National University of Science and Technology.

He said he particularly enjoyed Deaf Ears by Shikha Janet from India, which emphasised the empowerment of women and came in second in the festival.

Daudur Rehman, another student, said he enjoyed The Darker Side of Glittering Bangles by Samreen Ghauri, a documentary on the flight of girls working in the bangle making industry in Hyderabad. The documentary, which came third, also emphasised the right to education for home based bangle making girls.

A panel discussion featuring documentary filmmaker Naima Ansari, activist and writer Sadaf Raza, Burka Avenger creator and director Aaron Haroon Rashid, Pakistan National Council of the Arts director Jamal Shah was also held.

The discussion highlighted the role of women in film and the importance of promoting women’s voices in the industry, and was followed by a question and answer session on the role of women in the film industry. The festival will continue on Sunday, March 12.

Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2017