The Upside Down Gaze: 16th IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival

Film still from 'Shut Up Sona'

Fifty-one films from 15 Asian countries, all directed by women filmmakers, will be screened at the 16th edition of the IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival from March 5 to March 7 in New Delhi.

The festival will showcase the work of women directors from Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, China, Doha, Iran, India, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, Myanmar, Taiwan and Turkey.

“Held every year in the run up to the International Women’s Day on March 8 by IAWRT, in partnership with the India International Centre (IIC), this non-competitive film festival has become a much sought after women-director-only festival in this region over the last 16 years ,” says Nupur Basu, Managing Trustee, IAWRT, Chapter India.

This year the festival team received over 700 submissions. The selection pans the entire genre – feature length documentary films, short fiction and documentary films, animation films, experimental films and the themes range from citizenship, identity, migration, mental health, climate change and coming of age of girls,

“What women are looking at is not gender alone but there is a distinct cinematic language that many women filmmakers are defining that allows for the audience to see afresh” says Surabhi Sharma, Festival Director and Priya Thuvassery, the Co-Director of this edition of the festival.

Film still from 'Shut Up Sona'

The festival will open with the film, Shut Up Sona, by Deepti Gupta. The film follows singer Sona Mohapatra while she battles and confronts blatant and insidious sexism in the world of music. The filmmaker is able to create an intimate and reflective portrait of an outspoken personality.  Both, Director Deepti Gupta and film’s protagonist Sona Mohapatra will be present for the post screening conversation.

Other highlights of the festival are the Delhi premiere of Gitanjali Rao’s independently produced feature length animation film, Bombay Rose. The film has already traveled to more than 40 festivals apart from winning key awards at several.

This year’s BAFTA winner for Best Short animated Film by London based Iranian filmmaker, Maryam Mohajer ‘Grandad was a romantic’ is in the package.

This year’s festival includes a country focus on UAE. The closing film, Honey, Rain and Dust, by UAE filmmaker, Nujoom Al Ghanem. The film tells a fascinating story of three honey hunters working in the mountainous desert terrain of North UAE. 

The festival also includes a roundtable on “We Produce Cinema” to be attended by women producers and filmmakers on March 4 and a special segment on photography by four women photographers.

The theme – The Upside Down Gaze – is an evocative one for this edition of the festival.