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Encourages me to continue to tell stories on human condition, says Ivan Ayr of gender equality award

The drama, starring Geetika Vidya Ohlyan and Saloni Batra, won the Oxfam Best Film on Gender Equality award.

A still from Soni

Our Correspondent

First-time filmmaker Ivan Ayr’s Soni (2018) won the third edition of the Oxfam Best Film on Gender Equality award on the closing night of the 20th Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival. The drama focuses on two Delhi policewomen and their continued fight against crimes in the city against women. 

The jury consisted of filmmakers Rima Das, Anjali Menon and Doha Film Institute CEO, Fatma Al Remaihi, who bestowed the honour to the feature after viewing a total of eight films which were shortlisted for the award. 

"Soni is a very hard hitting and realistic depiction of the constant dilemmas and more importantly, the rage that women feel towards sexual crimes. What the film also shows is the vulnerability of women police officers who have to be law enforcers at work but off duty are just like other women with fears and apprehensions of being potential victims. It’s a very topical film given the current narrative on gender dynamics,” said jury member Anjali Menon. 

Vasanth S Sai’s anthology film Sivaranjani and Two Other Women received a special jury mention and Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s Jonaki got the second Oxfam special jury mention for gender equality.

A still from Jonaki 

Oxfam India CEO, Amitabh Behar, said in a statement, “We are thrilled that Soni, a film with strong female characters, has won the Oxfam Best Film on Gender Equality Award. It is an important film and we hope this award will help the filmmaker take the film to a wider audience. The third edition of this award must encourage more filmmakers to make cinema that breaks gender stereotypes and norms.”

The previous of this award included Alankrita Shrivastava’s Lipstick Under My Burkha (2017) and Rima Das’s Village Rockstars (2018).

Ayr’s first feature film had its world premiere at the 75th Venice International Film Festival. He shot Soni in Delhi on real locations last year and spent time with members of the city’s police department to observe how they work.

“Winning the Oxfam Best Film on Gender Equality award is a big honour and brings a great amount of credibility to the film's intentions and its achievement,” he said of the award. “As a filmmaker, it encourages me to continue to tell stories that are about the human condition and human experiences, oblivious to the gender of the character.”
Festival director Anupama Chopra said of the special category, “We are in the third year of our partnership with Oxfam and are extremely proud of what this platform has grown to represent. This year saw eight films, directed by men, that showcased the nuanced portrayals of women onscreen. Juxtaposed was the jury panel of truly powerful women who have been shaping the film industry not just in India but globally as well.”

The other films shortlisted for the awared were Imago, Hamid, Jaoon Kahan Bata Ae Dil, Ottamuri Velicham and Nathicharami. 

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MAMI Oxfam Gender Equality Award