“Women in Focus” at Film Festival in Argentina

The First International Women and Film Festival for Gender Equity drew enthusiastic audiences this month in the Argentine capital, where movies from nearly 40 countries were screened.

In comments to IPS, the organisers said they felt they had achieved their goals of increasing the visibility of women’s problems, raising awareness among viewers about the debate on the inequality of the sexes, and promoting inter-gender dialogue.

“The results were more than positive,” said the artistic director of the festival, Cynthia Judkowski. “We had a great deal of active participation from male and female members of the audiences, at the screenings and at the debates, which were so well-attended that some people were unable to get in.”

The festival, titled “Mujeres en foco” (Women in Focus), was held May 5-10 at six venues in Buenos Aires that served as movie theatres or debating halls. There was also a retrospective, and a seminar on screenwriting, directing and producing.

The idea was to call on filmmakers to submit films that address women’s issues related to health, migration, cultural practices, violence, inequality, political participation, sexual diversity and family life.

“Over 200 films were entered, and we selected 68, five of which competed in the feature-length category and six in the short film category,” Judkowski said.

“Cholita libre”, a documentary on Bolivian immigrants by German filmmaker Rike Holtz, won first prize for feature-length film. The jury stressed that the film not only focused on issues of central interest to the festival, but that it did so with perception, humour and beauty.

Second prize went to Venezuelan director Clarisa Duque’s “Tambores de agua”, which portrays the lives of black women from coastal communities in Venezuela.

Among the shorts, prizes were taken by “Ana y Mateo”, by Natural Arpajou from Argentina, and “Il Corpo delle donne (The Body of Women) by Italian filmmakers Lorella Zanardo and Marco Malfi.

The films selected came from Algeria, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Peru, Poland, South Africa, Sweden, the United States, Uruguay and Venezuela, among other countries.

Films by women directors included “Claroscuro” by Ana Faerrón of Costa Rica, about a women’s music group, “Fim do silêncio” (The End of Silence) by Thereza Jessouroun of Brazil, about unsafe abortion, and “Mémoire à la dérive” (Memory Adrift) by Pauline Voisard of Canada.

Films by male directors who tackled subjects from a gender perspective were also screened, such as “Lilja 4-Ever” by Lukas Moodysson of Sweden, and “Antiguos sueños de mujeres kichwas” (Quechua Women’s Former Dreams) by Santiago Carcelén Cornejo of Ecuador.

Entrance to the film shows was free, and there were no charges for registering films for the competition, each section of which was judged by a panel comprising two women and a man.

A retrospective of the work of Spanish filmmaker Helena Taberna, the director of “Yoyes” and “La buena nueva” (The Good News), was also shown. Taberna herself gave a seminar on screenwriting, producing and directing.

Debates were held on subjects like the place of women in the media, and “machista” violence. A meeting was also held for filmmakers wanting to explore how to promote gender parity and human rights.

“The aim was to create an opportunity for meeting, exchanging ideas and promoting movies by men and women directors that deal with gender issues and human rights,” Judkowski said.

In the medium term, the idea is to stimulate the making of films embodying commitment to a gender perspective and human rights.

Usually, festivals stressing women’s point of view include a broad variety of subjects, but show films made exclusively by women directors.

The Buenos Aires festival was organised on the reverse principle: the subjects of the films were limited to key issues about gender perspectives, while the sex of the directors was immaterial.

The organisers, a group of independent professional women filmmakers, were supported by a number of local and international institutions. They plan to hold the festival on an annual basis in Buenos Aires, as well as taking it abroad.

“We are convinced that the practice of art is transformational and revolutionary insofar as it modifies space and time, creating new situations… that challenge social relations of domination,” the festival announcement said. (END)



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