Interview English (India)

We need to have these solidarities, says documentary filmmaker Nupur Basu, on women-only film festivals

Basu, who is also the managing trustee of IAWRT's India chapter, talks about the significance of organising a women-only film festival and the need to safeguard such niche spaces.

Sukhpreet Kahlon

On the sidelines of the 16th edition of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) Asian Women’s Film Festival, which was held from 4-7 March in New Delhi, independent journalist and award-winning documentary filmmaker Nupur Basu, who is also managing trustee, IAWRT India chapter, talked about the festival and its relevance, while highlighting the significance of a women-only film festival.

Speaking about a recent round table that she was a part of in Turkey, Basu said, “It was quite amazing sitting in Ankara and being with nine or ten women-only festival curators at the Flying Broom Film Festival, where we wondered, Why do we do what we do?... With all the challenges, pushbacks, why do you want to categorise women filmmakers in one basket, why do you have these exclusive women-only festivals?... The solidarity around that room was amazing and the conclusion was that we do what we do because we got to do it, it’s not a choice. The oldest one [festival] there was from France and the youngest one from Lebanon, so it shows that they [festivals] are still coming up and there is a need for them.” 

Talking about the space that the festival in particular has opened up, she said, “This is our 16th edition and you can see in this edition, that you have the older feminists, filmmakers, and a huge crop of young filmmakers, not to be ageist at all, but student filmmakers, coming right out of film schools. Some of them have made such mature films and we were quite stunned with their work…I think this is a space that everybody relishes. They relish the fact that you can hang out with other women filmmakers, discuss the female gaze, as we call it. I think this is an indulgence that we deserve and we should keep at it for as many editions as possible.” 

Documentary filmmaker, writer and IAWRT member Samina Mishra added, “What makes the festival really special is that it is not competitive and that has created a wonderful energy. The thing about it being a women’s festival is that I think there is a place for both things - where women have to be part of the mainstream but also create spaces that are just for women, which have a different energy and we are celebrating that. The truth is that the world is unequal and we have centuries [of inequality] to make up for. So at this point in history, there seems to be no reason why one should not celebrate it for itself. I think this [the festival] does that.”

In addition to screening more than 51 films, the festival organized a photography exhibition by four women photographers and a workshop titled, ‘We Make Cinema,’ that showcased the range and aspirations of Asian women filmmakers. It featured women producers talking about their work and what drew them to take up certain projects in a session titled, ‘We Produce Films’.

Talking about the session Basu said, “There’s also this interesting thing about women producers - women coming forward to be producers of films made by women directors. It’s not a question of giving a leg up [to other women] but they just find that they have fascinating stories to tell and they are willing to put their money where their mouth is. They are coming from a position of talent but that mechanism has taken long to fall into place.” 

The festival is also growing each year. Last year it initiated a travelling festival, wherein films from the festival, travelled to Goa and Bhopal. Looking ahead at the significance of the spaces that the festival opens up, Basu said, “I think we want to guard this [festival] space because it is a niche space. I am not sure that there is no other like it but it is definitely one of the rare ones in India, even in the region I would say - a women only festival… we need to have these solidarities.”

Related topics

IAWRT Asian Women's Film Festival