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Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Focus on gender violence

Murali Krishnan, New Delhi
March 7, 2014

India's capital New Delhi recently hosted the 10th Asian Women's Film Festival. This year's event offered female filmmakers a platform to showcase their works on sexual abuse, identity and empowerment.


Indian filmmaker Leena Manimekalai feels strongly about violence against women. The director is critical of mainstream cinema's portrayal of its depiction, saying that the industry is more focused on profiting from the subject rather than addressing the core issue.

"There is an undeclared war being waged against women. Rape and sexual crimes are rampant everywhere. That is why women filmmakers sensitively portray the issue of gender violence," Manimekalai, who has made a dozen films about the dynamics of gender and caste system, told DW.

Her documentary on enforced disappearances during Sri Lanka's civil war, White Van Stories, has been a big draw. Women play the lead characters in her film and pose the biggest challenge to the "authoritarian state."

Asian women filmmaker Leena Mainmekalai
Indian filmmaker Manimekalai says there is an "undeclared war" being waged against womenImage: DW/M. Krishnan

In the current socio-cultural milieu of Asian countries, where suppression of women's rights and sexual violence have become major topics, issues surrounding women's empowerment have increasingly found resonance in the films screened during the four-day film festival.

Over 60 films from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, India, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and several other countries will be shown until March 8 in a range of genres.

Sumathy Sivamohan, a film-maker from Sri Lanka, says that violence against women must be tackled through community work. He also believes that creative artists needed to look at the problem from a broader perspective.

The setting for her movie 'Ingrinthu' (Here and Now) is a tea plantation in Sri Lanka, where a deaf mute, a struggling mother and a researcher from Colombo are thrown in together against the backdrop of escalating social and political violence.

'A common issue'

Documentary filmmaker Hu Tai-Li from Taiwan, whose film "Voices of Orchid Island" focuses on an indigenous population being exploited for generations, believes there should be more channels for women's voices to be heard.

"Violence against women is a common issue. Each country has its own problems and different socio-political backgrounds influence the issue. But the problems being raised and the solutions being suggested are most crucial," said Tai-Li.

Some of the other films at the festival delving on women's issues are My No-Mercy Home, a film by Aori of South Korea, focusing on a young woman's legal battle against her father in a case of child sexual abuse. Indian director, Shweta Ghosh's film AccSex explores notions of beauty, the "ideal body" and sexuality through four female storytellers who happen to be suffering from disability.

Filmmaker Hu Tai-Li in New Delhi
Taiwanese director Tai-Li says violence against women is a common issue being influenced by different socio-political backgroundsImage: DW/M. Krishnan

Political engagement

Anupama Chandra, one of the organizers of the festival, says the occasion provides an ideal platform for women directors and artists to renew ties and present their work.

"If you are a woman, you have to engage with the world politically. And it is bound to come up in some films, where I feel women filmmakers tend to engage with the subject with fine distinction," Chandra told DW.

The festival is set to end with a day-long seminar celebrating art by women in South Asia. The event is organized around a single question: How do women artists and activists in the region strategize and survive in repressive environments.

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