The Woman’s World: Films in Detail

A festival of films on women and health

At the 10th IWHM, New Delhi


Tales of the Night Fairies

2002, 74 mins, India
Directed by Shohini Ghosh

Five sex workers – four women and one man – along with the filmmaker/narrator embark on a journey of storytelling. ‘Tales of the Night Fairies’ explores the power of collective organizing and resistance while reflecting upon contemporary debates around sex work. The simultaneously expensive and labyrinthine city of Calcutta forms the backdrop for the personal and musical journeys of storytelling.

IWHM Focal Theme I
For enquiries contact: Shohini Ghosh,

Hack Workers

2002, 21 mins, Uzbekistan
Directed by Furkat Yakvalkhodzhaev

Thrown out of their homes by their husbands, separated from their children and forced (against all Uzbek customs) to earn their living, women find themselves in the hellish world of markets for women “hack workers”, unprotected by law and subject to violence, rape and murder.

IWHM Focal Theme V
For enquiries contact: Phoebe Schreiner,

Love, Women and Flowers

1988, 56 mins, Colombia
Directed by Marta Rodriguez and Jorge Silva

Flowers are Colombia’s third largest export. But, behind the beauty of the carnations and chrysanthemums sold in the U.S. and Europe, lies a horror story of hazardous labour conditions for the 60,000 women who work in the flower industry. The use of pesticides and fungicides, some banned in the developed countries that export them, has drastic health and environmental consequences. The film evokes the testimonies of the women workers and documents their efforts to organize.

IWHM Focal Theme I
For enquiries contact:

Live Containers

2002, 26 mins, Tajikistan
Directed by Orzu Sharipov

This report from a women’s prison tells about the economic hardship and political chaos which have led many Tajik women to become, out of sheer necessity, “live containers”, smuggling heroin inside themselves. These women, who led ordinary lives yesterday, could not possibly be called criminals. The government recognizes this and occasionally amnesties those women who were caught with a relatively “small” (by Tajik standards) amount of drugs. Yet, despite their sincere repentance and their joy at being liberated, there is no guarantee that life will not make them go down this terrible path again.

IWHM Focal Theme V
For enquiries contact: Phoebe Schreiner,

Wishing for Seven Sons and One Daughter

2002, 26 mins, Azerbaijan
Directed by Ali-Isa Djabbarov

The traditional Azerbaijani wedding wish serves as the title to this film and appears to be just a flowery ritual formula. Yet the colourful ethnographic scenes reveal a tragedy that has lasted for ages. In this patriarchal society, girls are unwanted and “useless”. In the past, newborn girls were often simply killed; yet, since the development of ultrasound, women have been compelled to seek abortions. Such an attitude towards women occasionally results in terrible family tragedies, one of which shook Azerbaijan a few years ago.

IWHM Focal Theme II
For enquiries contact: Phoebe Schreiner,

Half the Sky

1996, 32 mins, India
Directed by Samina Mishra

The film explores the differential access to health care, about what pushes healthcare beyond the reach of most women in India. The women in this film contribute as much as men to the sustenance of their families and the economy of their villages. But their labour is rarely recognised as work. The reason is as inescapable as it is simple they are women. Despite the Indian government’s declaration of Health for All by 2000, women’s health in India continues to be seen in limited ways. Shot in the villages of Almora and Sitapur districts in Uttar Pradesh, this is a film about the attitudes that deny women their share of healthcare.

IWHM Focal Theme IV
For enquiries contact: Samina Mishra,

Manjuben Truckdriver

2002, 52 mins, India
Directed by Sherna Dastur

Manjuben has broken the stereotypes that are part of the social landscape she lives in. She has created an identity for herself against social, cultural and economic norms, and still commands respect from her peers. This identity is deliberately male, that of a macho trucker, drawn from several popular notions of maleness. Yet Manjuben defies simple categorisation. While being “one of the boys”, Manjuben, unlike most truckers, neither smokes nor drinks. Though she lives a totally emancipated life compared to the other women in her society, she is just as patriarchal as the next person. In other words, Manjuben is no crusader.

IWHM Focal Theme II
For enquiries contact: Sherna Dastur,

Say I Do

2003, 55 mins, Canada, Filmed in Philippines & Canada
Directed by Arlene Ami

‘Say I Do’ chronicles the stories of three “mail-order-brides” from the Philippines now living in Canada. In order to escape lives of poverty, and support their families, these women married men they didn’t know. Upon arriving in Canada, they found themselves isolated in remote regions of the country. With no one to turn to, they were at the mercy of their husbands. What lies ahead for them is uncertain. The lucky ones may find stability. The less fortunate may suffer terrible consequences. All of them are willing to take the risk.

IWHM Focal Theme III
For enquiries contact: Arlene Ami,


Search for Freedom: A Story about Four Afghan Women

2002, 54 mins, Aghanistan & Pakistan
Directed by Munizae Jahangir

Search for Freedom is a documentary that explores the lives of four Afghan women who were affected by the political and social turmoil in Afghanistan, from the 1920’s to the present day. The women – a princess, Afghanistan’s first woman singer, a war widow and mother of four, and a young medical student – relate their own stories, depicting what they felt and sensed as events unfolded around them. The film offers an in depth insight into the human stories of the Afghan political conflict, linking the personal to the political.

IWHM Focal Theme II
For enquiries contact: Munizae Jahangir,

The Peacekeepers and the Women

2003, 80 mins, Germany, Filmed in Bosnia
Directed by Karin Jurschick

Trafficking of women and girls, for forced prostitution, has become a booming industry in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Members of international armed forces and aid agencies posted there are among their solvent customers. Avoiding the usual victim/perpetrator perspectives, the film concentrates on the way the interviewees present themselves before the camera.

IWHM Focal Theme V
For enquiries contact: Karin Jurschick,

Autumn’s Final Country

2003, 40 mins, India
Directed by Sonia Jabbar

‘Autumn’s Final Country’ is the touching story of Indu, Zarina, Shahnaz and Anju, four women who suffer displacement in the conflict-ridden State of Jammu and Kashmir. Recorded as testimonials for the South Asia Court of Women (Dhaka, Aug.2003), the film explores the lives of each woman as she relates the circumstances leading to her rootlessness, and reveals an intimate dimension of the Kashmir conflict, raising questions about patriarchal values and power, communal identities, patriotism and war.

IWHM Focal Theme V
For enquiries contact: Sonia Jabbar,

In the Spider’s Web

2003, 45 mins, The Palestinian Territories
Directed by Hannah Musleh

‘In the Spider’s Web’ gives an insider’s view of the devastating effects of Israeli occupation on the lives of Palestinians. Daily life is a series of ordinances and an ordeal of checkpoints which interrupts all aspects of Palestinian civilian life, such as getting to work, attending school, obtaining health care, or seeing family and friends. Palestinians are regularly subjected to property confiscation, house demolition, arrest and other violations. While the film mainly revolves around the accounts of two women, it also highlights the insurmountable pressures on the Palestinian people, their suffocation and despair, and the effects on their physical and psychological well-being.

IWHM Focal Theme V
For enquiries contact: Randa Siniora, /

Austin Women In Black: The War is Over Why Are You Still There?

2003, 57 mins, USA
Directed by Austin Women in Black

Austin Women In Black started in Austin, Texas. After 9-11, women from all walks of life stand in weekly vigils for peace. The film begins with Austin Women in Black stating why they continue to stand in weekly vigils. We hear from people on the street, offering their opinion on why 9-11 happened. We hear personal stories and views on the Israeli/Palestinian issue, facts about the effects of economic sanctions, about PNAC (Project for a New American Century), which comprises of a group of men who advise the US president, and its agenda for war. And finally, we see some wonderful images of peace activists from around the world, standing together in peace.

IWHM Focal Theme V
For enquiries contact: Cara Griswold,


Planeta Alemania: Observations from Invisibility

1999, 40 mins, Germany
Directed by Dogfilm and Campañeras

‘Planeta Alemania’ is the attempt to make a cinematic portrait of a woman, who is not able to position herself in front of the camera. In Germany many people are without the status of a legal residence. They are known as “illegal people”: made unrecognisable or degraded to “shadow people”, victims and suspects. Fragmentary, in different tableaus, an image of a person comes into being in this film without her actually leaving invisibility.

IWHM Focal Theme III
For enquiries contact:

Gender Trouble

2002, 24 mins, UK
Directed by Roz Mortimer

In this sensitive, thought provoking and moving experimental documentary, four inter-sex women speak about hemaphrodism, surgery, gender and identity with eloquence and candour. This film questions how medicine and society have treated the inter-sexed, and breaks the codes of silence and secrecy that have surrounded their lives.

IWHM Focal Theme II
For enquiries contact: Roz Mortimer,

A Womb of One’s Own

1999, 13 mins, Finland
Directed by Gun Holstrom

A pregnant woman who is not a ‘surrogate’ mother is about to give birth for her close friends, a male couple. All three of them are co-parents to the child. The biological mother shares candidly the struggle she faces at every level from the state and society so that she can have her right over her own body in order to live life on her own terms, terms which seem to outrage the gatekeepers of collective morality.

IWHM Focal Theme II
For enquiries contact: Gun Holstrom,

Born At Home

2000, 60 mins, India
Directed by Sameera Jain

‘Born at Home’ observes indigenous birth practices in many parts of India. The film negotiates ethnography, medical anthropology and gender concerns. Dais (midwives) handle 50% of the births in India. Yet the dai is the lowest rung of the hierarchies of caste, class and gender. She is almost always a low-caste, poor woman. Her methods are holistic, conceiving of childbirth not as pathology but continuation of organic life. Yet, her inherited skills are continually devalued by the mainstream.

IWHM Focal Theme IV
For enquiries contact: Sameera Jain,


Patents or Patients

2002, 25 mins, The Netherlands, Filmed in India
Directed by Joost De Haas

Yusuf Hamied is the Robin Hood of the pharmaceutical Industry. He “steals” medicines from the rich and gives them to the poor. Hamied surprised the world when he offered cheap AIDS drugs to South Africa. He did this through his company, ‘Cipla’, which produces generic medicines, cheap “copies” of patented medicines of large pharmaceutical companies from the US and Europe. Is he a thief? No, patent laws are national laws and, unlike the US, India decided that medicines cannot be patented to guarantee a viable health system. His initiative started a worldwide discussion about patent rights.

IWHM Focal Theme I
For enquiries contact: Joost De Haas,

Yellow Haze

1996, 24 mins, India
Directed by Suniti Singh, Pankaj Sekhsaria and Gayathri Prabhu

Quinacrine was widely used as an anti-malarial drug during World War II. Later it was discovered to act as a sterilising agent for women when directly inserted into the uterus. The drug was never approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), or the World Health Organisation (WHO). However a team of two American doctors along with their collaborators have been actively promoting Quinacrine in 19 developing countries, including India, and thousands of women have been so sterilised in the last few years. ‘The Yellow Haze’ follows one such trial of Quinacrine that was conducted in a government medical college in the capital, New Delhi.

IWHM Focal Theme IV
For enquiries contact: Pankaj Sekhsaria,

Green Gold

2003, 29 mins, The Netherlands, Filmed in South Africa
Directed by Heidi Bachram, Julie Chadwick and Ell Southern

‘Green Gold’ is the story of Sajida Khan, a South African woman with a hazardous dumpsite on her doorstep. Her neighbours are dying one by one, while the dump leaks gases and toxins into her air, water and earth. Meanwhile, the World Bank calls the dump a “world class example of an environmental project.” This dramatic gap between the local community and the World Bank is because of the new pollution trading scheme in the Kyoto Protocol. Green Gold was made at a poignant moment when the United Nation’s World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD) came to South Africa in 2002.

IWHM Focal Theme I
For enquiries contact: Heidi Bachram, Julie Chadwick and Ell Southern,

A Human Question

2005, 53mins, Germany & India
Directed by T. Jayashree

As the pandemic of HIV/AIDS surges on, individuals, groups and countries are struggling to preserve access to medicines, faced with the irony of new and better drugs on one hand, and increasing restrictions to these drugs on the other. A Human Question explores personal, national and global dimensions of this struggle and responses to the new patent laws mandated by the WTO in name of protecting intellectual property. It voices perspectives that raise compelling questions about whether private knowledge has to be pitted against public good in the name of scientific progress.

IWHM Focal Theme I
For enquiries contact: T. Jayashree,

Something Like A War

1991, 52 mins, India
Directed by Deepa Dhanraj

The Family Planning (FP) programme in India was launched in 1952 and was formulated in collaboration with Western population control experts. The programme is based on the assumption that the irresponsible, anti-national breeding of the poor and illiterate is the main cause of the nation’s backwardness and that population control is the magical key to progress. However, the programme has failed in its objective. The film traces the history of the FP programme and exposes its cynicism, corruption and brutality which characterises its implementation.

IWHM Focal Theme II
For enquiries contact: Deepa Dhanraj,



1996, Farsi, 129 minutes
Directed by Dariush Mehrjui

Set in modern Iran, the film begins on the birthday of the title character Leila. Leila is a married woman happily settled with her loving husband Reza. The world changes forever for Leila when, earlier that day, she discovers that she holds very little chance of ever conceiving a child. When Leila passes up the possibility of adoption, Reza firmly and lovingly tells her that he married her, and does not care at all about having children. But Reza’s domineering mother bluntly explains to Leila that Reza has always wished for children. Invoking the accepted tradition of polygamy, Reza’s mother insists that Leila must help find a second wife for him, one capable of producing a male heir. Leila hesitantly agrees. Reza finally does meet a woman whom he claims to like, even though he refuses to go through with the marriage if Leila does not give her full blessing.

Munnabhai MBBS

2003, Hindi, 155 minutes
Directed by Rajkumar Hirani

Murli Prasad Sharma a.k.a Munna, is an underworld don. But he tells his parents that he is a doctor running a charity hospital. Every year when his parents visit, he turns his home into a hospital, and his gang mates act as patients and doctors. On one such visit Munna’s father discovers that his son is not a doctor but a goon and disowns him. Munna decides to enrol himself in medical school to prove to his father that he is capable of it. Thereafter begins a comical education of an illiterate underworld don – who is all set to change the medical institution and all its rules and regulations to suit his goal, and go where no bhai (don) has ever gone before. In the process we enter a world where medical ethics and practices are put to test, a world in which taporis (the street thug) have a conscience, a golden heart and a healing touch. Doctors, on the other hand, are cold, stern and unemotional beings who only treat, not heal, the patient.

Todo Sobre Mi Madre (All About My Mother)

1999, Spanish, 101 minutes
Directed by Pedro Almodóvar

A single mother in Madrid sees her only son die on his 17th birthday as he runs to seek an actress’s autograph. She goes to Barcelona to find the boy’s father, a transvestite named Lola who does not know he has a child. First she finds her friend, Agrado, also a transvestite; through him she meets Rosa, a young nun bound for El Salvador, and by chance, becomes the personal assistant of Huma Rojo, the actress her son admired. She helps Huma manage Nina, the co-star and Huma’s lover, and she becomes Rosa’s caretaker during a difficult pregnancy. With echoes of Lorca, ‘All About Eve’, and ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, the mothers (and fathers and actors) live out grief, love, and friendship.

IWHM Focal Themes:

1. Focal Theme I: Public Health, Health Sector Reforms & Gender.
2. Focal Theme II: Reproductive & Sexual Health Rights.
3. Focal Theme III: The Politics and the Resurgence of Population Policies.
4. Focal Theme IV: Women’s Rights & Medical Technologies.
5. Focal Theme V: Violence [of State, Militarism, Family & ‘Development’] & Women’s Health.

Note: Programme subject to last minute changes

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