The Cairo International Women’s Film Festival aims to celebrate contributions by female film-makers, shed light on the problems women face and bring attention to the need for changing misconceptions about their role in society, festival organisers said.
“Women have been a main driving force behind the progress international cinema has made so far,” festival Director Amal Ramsis said. “They are everywhere in the cinema industry: Behind cameras, writing scripts, directing films and in leading roles in front of the cameras.”
The festival, scheduled for March 4th-9th, was first organised in 2008 to showcase cinema innovations in the Arab region and in Latin America by women artists, directors and scriptwriters. The festival was the first artistic event to be solely focused on cinema created by women.
Through the previous nine festivals, organisers presented the works of scores of female film-makers from both regions. Some of the films entered into the tenth edition document problems faced by women in different parts of the world.
The works of 53 female directors from 30 Arab, Latin American, European and Asian countries were on the schedule.
“These directors will have the rare chance of communicating directly with the audiences after the shows,” Ramsis said. “They will be hearing viewers’ opinions bluntly and without any barriers.”
The event aims to empower female film-makers, who, critics said, do not get enough credit for their work although many women have been instrumental to the progress of international cinema.
“Mention any film, either here in the Arab region, or in other parts of the world, and I can assure you that a woman is behind its success, even as her name is little mentioned together with the male stars,” said cinema critic and director Ena’am Mohamed Ali. “While their contributions to world cinema are undeniable, women still struggle for equality with men.”
Films shown in the festival are diverse and cover a variety of topics. The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis, directed by Argentinian Andrea Testa, tells the story of a man who risks the safety of his family to rescue friends who are about to be kidnapped by the army.
Another film, The Newsroom, is the work of Danish director Mikala Krogh. It tells of a notorious Danish tabloid’s struggle to stay afloat in a changing world.
To spread the word about women’s contributions to cinema, festival organisers allow audiences to attend for free.
The festival is unique in the way movies are selected to win its awards. There is no jury but, at the end of every show, audiences are asked to vote on whether the film should be given the festival’s top award. The film receiving the largest number of audience votes is given the award.
Ramsis said by doing this, festival organisers empower viewers and allow them to make the cause of the film-makers their own.
“Audiences play the central role in the festival because they are the ones who decide the winning films,” Ramsis said. “This selection strategy is very effective in making the audiences attach themselves to the makers of the films.”
The festival administration also presents Arabic language subtitles to allow viewers to better understand the films and the issues they raise.
Nonetheless, experts said international cinema has a very long way to go to get to the heart of the suffering of women around the world. They added that few films, even those made by women, discuss the problems facing women, especially in conflict zones and areas where violations against them go unreported and unpunished.
“Despite this, events like this festival do a wonderful job bringing to light the work done by women and also the problems faced by them,” cinema critic Ali Abu Shadi said. “There are women directors, women scriptwriters and camerawomen everywhere but little do they get credit for the work they do.”
- Ibrahim Ouf is an Egyptian journalist based in Cairo.
- Copyright ©2017 The Arab Weekly.