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Asian Women's Film Festival: Importance of safe spaces for dissent highlighted at inauguration

Veteran scholar of the arts and Padma Vibhushan recipient Kapila Vatsyayan and eminent critic and scholar Aruna Vasudev were felicitated at the function.

Kapila Vatsyayan, assisted by festival director Aradhana Kohli Kapur, lights the traditional lamp

Prateek Rawat

The International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT), India Chapter, inaugurated the 14th edition of its annual Asian Women’s Film Festival at the India International Centre (IIC) in New Delhi yesterday.

The formal inauguration was held at 6:00 pm at IIC’s CD Deshmukh auditorium, following a day of film screenings, day 2 of a workshop on sound/camera, and the Filmy Adda.

IAWRT felicitated veteran Indian scholar of the arts and Padma Vibhushan recipient Kapila Vatsyayan for her contribution in setting up the festival.

Vatsyayan, founding director of the Indira Gandhi National Centre of Arts and a former member of Parliament, inaugurated the festival with the traditional lighting of a lamp.

Addressing the audience, IAWRT India managing trustee Archana Kapoor commented on the creation and legacy of safe spaces and progressive institutions in giving women the voice to dissent against any form of censorship.

Stressing the need for IAWRT to take cognizance of changing times, she said, “We need to create opportunities to speak truth to power. We need to start the process of dialogue. We can make a difference by carrying these voices and struggles to the new generation.”

IAWRT also felicitated leading Indian development feminist and poet Kamla Bhasin for her contribution to the efforts of the organization and to South Asian feminism. Addressing the audience, Bhasin saluted the spirit of the amazing women gathered there, and the need to bring different perspectives into the collective by bringing together people across borders.

In the wake of the Women’s Day march, Bhasin rallied the audience through a slogan on azaadi, or freedom.

Festival director Aradhana Kohli Kapur expressed gratitude to the contributors of the festival and commented on the growth of the festival’s community and programming.

This year, the festival received 219 films from 21 nations, which proved a challenge for the curators and programmers. Owing to the enthusiastic response over the years, the festival has gradually evolved from being a daylong event to a three-day gala. This year's edition also witnessed the addition of technical workshops, seminars and the Filmy Adda to the festival’s general programme.

IAWRT also felicitated eminent critic and scholar Aruna Vasudev for her contribution to Asian cinema. Sobriqueted as the 'Mother of Asian Cinema', Aruna Vasudev is a prolific film critic, author, editor, painter, documentary filmmaker, and scholar of Asian Cinema.

Founder of film publication Cinemaya (1988) and the NETPAC award, Vasudev has also served as director of Osian’s Connoisseurs of Art Private Limited and been on the jury of several acclaimed international film festivals. She is a recipient of the Korean Cinema award at the Pusan International Film Festival (1997), Italian Star of Solidarity medal (2004), Lifetime Achievement award at Cinemalia International Film Festival, Chevalier of Arts and Letters (France), and the Lifetime Achievement award at the 2nd International Film Festival of Colombo.

Bina Paul, artistic director of the International Film Festival of Kerala, engaged Vasudev in a conversation about her career and her achievements. Commenting on her several modes of contributing to Asian cinema with the NETPAC award and Cinemaya, Vasudev said, “I see cinema not only as a great art but also as a way of discovering people and cultures I didn’t know of.”

The ceremony was followed by the screening of the opening feature film, Clair Obscur, by filmmaker Yesim Ustaoglu, a renowned director of the Turkish New Wave.

The 14th Asian Women’s Film Festival is being held from 5-7 March and is witnessing an eclectic curation of films, Q&A sessions with directors, workshops, seminars and networking sessions over its three-day run.

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IAWRT Asian Women's Film Festival