To fill a huge gender gap in the field of storytelling using digital media and film, mainly due to lack of awareness and opportunities for women, a movement to encourage and facilitate them in using self-expression, storytelling, fiction, and citizen journalism through filmmaking to raise their voice and create social change, took birth. We call it Women through Film.While battling the ailing independent film appreciation among the wider public, and supporting to celebrate the work of women filmmakers, came into existence Pakistan’s home-grown Women International Film Festival (WIFF), as the flagship initiative of Women Through Film.WIFF19 is going to be a five-day event showcasing films received by filmmakers from around the world on the themes of Helping hands, Child abuse, and Sexual Harassment, in the form of short films, documentaries, public service announcements, and animated films.
Women International Film Festival 2017
The first of its kind Women International Film Festival was successfully kicked off on 11th of March 2017 at the Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA) in Islamabad. The two-day festival took place during the women’s week, featuring 17 films by amateur filmmakers from Pakistan and around the world. Films came in from countries including Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Malaysia, Nigeria, UK and Mexico.
A panel of venerated judges from within the media world judged the films on the basis of set criteria. These included New York-based producer and director Marilyn Agrelo, Pakistani documentary film-maker and journalist Haya Fatima Iqbal, Pakistani TV and film director Anjum Shahzad, UK-based human rights activist Mandy Sanghera and renowned Pakistani film and music video director Yasir Jaswal. On the first day, a panel discussion was held, with guest representation of prominent figures including Aaron Haroon Rashid, Jamal Shah, Sadaf Raza and Naima Ansari, highlighting the role of women in film, and importance of promoting female voices in the industry.
The second day featured a panel discussion with eminent guests including Mishi Khan, Shamoon Hashmi, Kanwal Naseer, and Halimah Tariq. This was followed by a Q&A session with the audience that promoted a healthy exchange of ideas regarding using film as catalyst for social change in the form of women empowerment. The discussion regarding the dire need for women empowerment in Pakistan was not only enlightening but also inspiring.
The panel discussion was followed by the much-awaited announcement of the top three winners, with Ashique Mostafa from Bangladesh, winning first place for her film: Statement after My Poet Husband’s Death. Shikha Janet Alagh, from India, secured second place for Deaf Ears. Third place was awarded to Sangeeta Nambiar, from Malaysia, for Rahayu: Her Road to Freedom. To top it off, the evening was concluded with an invigorating musical performance by Mizraab Khawar, the lead vocalist for an underground band.
Women International Film Festival (WIFF) 2018
With the support of the European Union Cooperation in Pakistan, Women Through Film hosted Women International Film Festival film 2018 that screened some of the most resonant and thought-provoking films made by talented independent filmmakers from around the world, purveying important messages on gender equality, women & child rights, and telling stories of inspiring women.
The main event comprised of a grand film screening, besides panel discussions and live performances, followed by a reception/hi-tea. Going in reverse, Panel B started by screening Tanzeen Bari’s 30-minute film “Matkay pay Thappa’ followed by an engaging discussion with the filmmaker herself, Sehar Tariq (representative of Shireen Rehman), and the panel moderator Ms. Rukshanda Naz (Gender and women right Activists). The Panel A was centered on self-empowerment of filmmakers featuring two of our talented filmmakers Ibrahim Rana and Namra Nasir, whose films were showcased at the event, along with our Irish film trainer Gabrielle Kelly who had joined us for the Parwaaz film lab.
The film festival closed with the prize distribution, with Fatima Hussaini from Tajikistan, winning first place for her film Screaming Silence. Nmara Nasir from Pakistan secured second place for her She for Her. Third place was awarded to Suruchi Sharma from India, for her film The Dusk. The evening concluded with a musical performance by Dania Adil and Mubbashir Sheikh.
As part of the capacity building component, WIFF held the Parwaaz Film Lab where registered/shortlisted filmmakers had the opportunity to learn ‘The Art of Cinematic Storytelling’ in a day-long lab from film experts coming all the way from Europe.
Women Intl. Film Festival 2019
The film festival’s third iteration is scheduled to run in Islamabad from March 4th to March 10th at the Pakistan National Council of Arts. The festival aims to select films from around the world that engage and inform people about women rights related to gender issues, child abuse, sexual harassment, and stories of remarkable men and women who lend a helping hand in the struggle for equality and empowerment.
The event will host the second edition of the Parwaaz Film Lab, this time a 3-day long film lab for participants from across Pakistan.