A festival of films on women & health
10th IWHM, New Delhi, Hotel Samrat, Kautilya
(adjacent to the conference venue)
September 21 – 26, 2005
The understanding of women’s health today has moved beyond maternal roles and procreation, to a more holistic notion. It is now widely accepted that health is dependent on age, class, race, caste, gender, ethnicity, culture, location, disability, marital status and sexual orientation, and that it is intrinsically linked to the production and reproduction roles that women play.
The 10th IWHM seeks to foreground women’s health as a fundamental human right and The Woman’s World: A festival of films on women and health invariably reflect a more holistic view of women’s lives in diverse conditions, and women’s struggles and strategies for dignified survival. What we have attempted to do here is to select a few good films that give a glimpse into the many facets of women’s lives that affect their physical, emotional and mental well-being.
All the films in this festival take up, in varied ways, the many violations, struggles and challenges that women worldwide face in their efforts to lead a comfortable, healthy and secure life of their own choice. Some of these films bring into focus specific concerns on women and health, others grapple with the complexities and predicaments of larger debates, policies and actions that directly, or indirectly, impact women in their everyday existences. Effects of globalisation, heightened militarism, increased psychological and physical violations, hazardous work and living environments, reduced access to resources, the need for self-assertion, the search for identities and the continual desire for dignified living are some of the strands that run through the 25 documentaries and three feature films in this festival.
The films resonate with the five focal themes of this meeting, but often traverse several areas all at once. We found the metaphor of space, and its varied connotations, useful in thinking through the documentaries. And so we have clustered these 25 films into four thematics that we think best reflect the many facets of women and their lives: work, women in conflict zones, women on the margins, and the contentious global policies and practices that affect women’s everyday lives.
Each of the three feature films also weaves together many of the concerns of the five focal themes. The melodramatic quality of these three films allow the issues to take on a life of their own as we, the audience, feel their psychological and emotional impacts on the characters of these fictional worlds. In fact, over the years, popular Indian cinema, especially the mainstream Hindi film industry, has engaged with many serious, sensitive, even controversial, issues. The use of a star caste, and stylistic elements including language and treatment that are familiar to mass audiences, have helped to popularise some of these concerns. Popular Hindi cinema boasts of a pan Indian audience and a “hit film” reaches out to billions of people. And so, we strongly felt that this festival would be incomplete without the inclusion of an appropriate “hit” Hindi feature film.
The films are a platform for many women to voice their desires and their anguish, register their protest and, at times, explore the way they wish to represent themselves. In the process, the festival becomes a small attempt at an insight into the woman’s world. While putting together the festival we did not limit ourselves to films by women directors; however once the selection was finalised we realised that, inadvertently, most of the films had been made by women.
The curation, of course, cannot be representative of all countries and issues, and the paucity of time and budgetary constraints have not only forced us to be selective but has also meant that the films are only available for screening in English or in the original language, with English subtitles. However, despite the limitations, we hope that the chosen films will bring to life some of the concerns of the 10th IWHM and augment the culture of informed debate on women and health.
Workscape journeys through 7 countries to open up several sites of women’s labour, the consequent risks that are involved, and the struggles and strategies that women have employed worldwide, by choice or by force, in their attempts at leading a dignified life.
This section zones in on several conflict-torn areas across the world including Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bosnia, Kosovo, Guatemala and the USA, to uncover tales of repression, violence, survival and resistance, from women who have been the direct and indirect “casualties” of these wars.
NO (Wo)MAN’S LAND: VOICES FROM THE MARGINS
This section could easily have taken its name from the first film. For all the films are, in a sense, “observations from invisibility”, exploring the experiences of people living on the margins, often rendered invisible through prejudice, policies and politics. Discriminated against for not having been born into, or following, the social/political norm, the people in these five films live without recognition of their needs, desires, skills, achievements, struggles, identities, rights and indeed their very existence. Yet, despite their difficult lives, the protagonists exude a spirit that’s far from despair.
We close the festival with a set of films that are concerned with the lacunae in global policy measures and its everyday effects on women’s health. The films bring up a range of issues that highlight women’s lack of access to basic resources like medicines and water, their lack of control over their bodies and their environments, and the consequent exposure to health hazards. They take up the politics behind these exclusionary measures and some of the strategies of countering these challenges.
Curated by : Gargi Sen and Ranita Chatterjee
Note: Entry on invitation only. For registration, please log on to http://www.10iwhmindia.org
Many of the films are courtesy the following film festivals: Other Worlds Are Breathing, 2004, WSF 2004, Mumbai, Other Worlds Are Breathing, 2005, WSF 2005, Porto Allegre, LARZISH, 1st International Film Festival of Sexuality and Gender. We thank the filmmakers and producers for sharing their films with us.