Feminism through movies at the Raipur film festival

Feminism through movies at the Raipur film festival

The first edition of the Raipur Feminist Film Festival was held at Sankriti Vibhag in Raipur from 27 February to 1 March 2020. Organised by Oxfam India in collaboration with the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA), Hariom Films & Sanket Film Society, it was held alongside the fifth edition of the Raipur International Short Film Festival. The festival was an event under Oxfam India’s Gender Justice thematic run with the aim to showcase feminist films that promote un-stereotyping of women in Indian Cinema. As per a study done by Oxfam India and general observations it is clear that popular films promote a stereotyped image of women mostly as good looking women who have little of substance to offer. There are also too few women directors and producers and women centered themes in cinema. With unconventional films on themes ranging from the empowerment of girls and women against different forms of abuse, highlighting various discriminatory practices to starting conversations around gender and intersectionality, this was a part of our campaign of Bano Nayi Soch which seeks to engage with consumers of films. This film festival was part of Oxfam’s strategy to engage with various stakeholders such as media and college students, print media, community youth and influencers in society to understand such stereotyping, comprehend negative social norms which uphold it and instead visibilise real women and their lives. The feminist films were meant to act as conversation starters on the same.

The feminist films screened during the festival included Naked by Rakesh Kumar, The Proposal by Pocket Films, Unsung Courage by Deepti Vasisth, If She Built a Country by Maheen Mirza, Turup by the Ektara Collective, Maunn by Priyanka Singh, Juice by Neeraj Ghaywan, and Anaarkali of Aarah by Avinash Das. The screenings were followed by panel discussions that were in line with the issues covered by the various movies including domestic violence, sexual harassment, communalism and child sexual abuse. Films that were part of this festival largely portrayed women as leaders and change makers. For example, If She Built a Country captured the struggles of tribal people around land rights in Chhattisgarh; and how Adivasi women were at the forefront of this fight.

The festival also acted as an important platform for women film makers like Priyanka Singh and Deepti Vasisth since besides being able to screen their films, they also got to interact with the audience. The screening of Avinash Das’ Anaarkali of Aarah on the last day was followed by a panel discussion that had Amita Pitre (Gender Specialist from Oxfam India) as a panelist. The session was also streamed live on Oxfam India’s Facebook and Instagram handles.

With campaign messaging plastered across the venue, this festival served as an excellent opportunity to promote the message of gender justice. It was a wonderful experience for not only the people from Raipur but also for Oxfam India’s young champions from Chhattisgarh, UP and Odisha who participated in the festival. The festival culminated with a Powerwalk organised by the State Women’s Commission of Chhattisgarh and the presentation of Jury Awards to films screened. Anila Bhediya, Minister for the Ministry of Women & Child Development, Chhattisgarh also participated in the screening of the short film, Juice.

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