Support Women. Support Local. Attend WIFF19

by Irfan Ahmed

The magic of film is in its ability to absorb the audience into a world unfamiliar to them, taking them on a journey with the characters; making them feel their joy, sorrow, excitement, and fear. Like a silent observer – or in some people’s cases not so silent – we follow as they navigate their world, and the people they encounter. We feel their travails, we watch them in their defining moments, we gasp when they stumble and fall. We see the arc of their transformation. And perhaps, just maybe, we form an empathetic connection with them, based not on conversation but on experiencing their life.

That is the power of storytelling. To be able to experience aspects of the world through the lens of another. We might not entirely be able to relate with their experience. We might not entirely understand it either. Yet even a semblance of it can change the way we relate to others in real life.

Women International Film Festival (WIFF), through its curated programming, hopes to achieve and instill such an experience for its audience. By showcasing films made by female filmmakers, where the narrative is driven primarily by female protagonists, the intent is to show life and the world through the perspective of women. Such narratives have either been underrepresented in the media, or misrepresented, being channeled instead through a male perspective. Therefore, by gathering together such films under one roof, WIFF hopes to provide them a platform for their talent to be made visible and be appreciated, and mainstream these narratives.

Over the years WIFF has touched upon thought-provoking themes, like women and child rights, and gender equality, which challenge the dominant norms of society. This year WIFF19, with the generous support of the European Union, is expanding its programming to become a multi-day festival, delivering more content than ever before.

From March 4th to 8th a Sidebar of European Films will be presented, screening feature films by female filmmakers from the EU. The stories are rich and diverse – a deceased father communicating with his daughter from beyond the grave (Italy), a poor family’s life upended upon the arrival of visitors (Bulgaria), familial ties being strained by a girl’s experience of racism (Sweden), an orphaned girl making a new life with her relatives in the countryside (Spain), and a peculiar and tantalizing distant relationship that ensues between a man and a home invader (Austria) – resonating with stories of hope, sorrow, pain, and joy, told through the lens of women.

To commemorate International Women’s Day on March 8th, WIFF wanted to allow local artists and citizens to partake and be involved. To encourage such expression, the floor will be opened for artists of any talent and medium to perform on stage and share their ideas, views, and stories about women and the struggle for the equal rights and representation of women. We look forward to performances involving spoken word, music, dance, poetry recitals, and other forms of storytelling.

On March 9th WIFF’s headliner event, the short film competition, will be held. Continuing its tradition, as in the previous years, 14 short films selected from thousands of applicants from around the world will be screened. This year the themes for the film entries touch upon sensitive issues usually not discussed openly in our society, but extremely pertinent to our times: child abuse and sexual harassment. A third category, Helping Hands, will depict stories of people working towards the cause of gender equality.

What makes attending a film festival unique from watching a movie at the cinema is that a festival offers an experience that goes beyond just the act of viewing. For instance, the European feature films being screened during the first 5 days will be followed by an engaging Q&A session, for the audience to partake in. At WIFF you can rest assured you will be engaged with thought provoking art and conversation, entertainment, interesting people, and of course, filmmakers.

After the short films screenings on March 9th, the WIFF team has included a few extra segments into the programming to make the evening more interesting and entertaining.

To have a dialogue on the medium of film itself, WIFF will be organizing a panel titled Fostering Cultural Diplomacy through Cinema. Focusing on films within the South Asian context, the panel will explore how cultural diplomacy has been effective, in Pakistan and in other countries of the region, in depicting the culture and shifting perspectives within society.

And for the musically inclined, we also have a brief musical performance from a local band lined up in order to lighten the senses after a marathon of short films, to uplift your spirits, and give you a reason to swing to the beat.

Whereas film festivals around the world are usually ticketed events, we at WIFF wanted to extend the typical Pakistani hospitality so that you may have the opportunity to come and experience the films for free. The festival is open to the public and we are looking forward to a diverse crowd of men and women from all walks of life. So come on down to PNCA from March 4th to 9th to attend WIFF19*.

Support women. Support your local film festival. It is an experience you do not want to miss this year.


*For further details please visit our website or our Facebook Page.

7 Reasons why you should attend WIFF18

Haven’t we all grown up loving films? From being addicted to Disney as kids, to watching Hollywood Sci-Fi’s and chick-flicks, and cheesy Bollywood to thought-provoking parallel cinema. Let’s face it, we ALL love mainstream films. But then there are independent films. Oh, and then there are films made by ‘women’. Now how often do we see those, really?

While battling the ailing independent film appreciation among the wider public, and supporting to celebrate the work of women filmmakers, was born Pakistan’s home-grown Women International Film Festival (WIFF) 2018, hosted by Women Through Film, which is now running its second edition, slated for the 11th of March 2018 at the Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA), Islamabad.

Not only are we celebrating the artistry of women in film, in leading roles on screen, and at the heart of storylines, but we’re bringing together independent filmmakers, enthusiastic cinephiles, film buffs, and artists in general, to come together and applaud narrative films and documentaries. It will be an event you really don’t want to miss!

And oh, men are also welcome to attend this film festival and be part of the conversations.

Below are some of the reasons why you should pencil March 11th in your calendar and come to this event:

  1. So many amazing films!
    The film selection at this year’s WIFF is very well-chosen. And incredibly diverse. We ensure no serious or gloomy documentaries galore; in fact, the films received from around the world this year are more engaging and narrative-driven. Our local female filmmakers, as well as those from the UK, USA, Ghana, Tajikistan, India, and Egypt etc. have highlighted some of the most important issues through the lenses of very personal and thoughtful stories.

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  2. The Exuberant Vibe
    From our enthusiastic team welcoming our guests, and a quirky opening ceremony, to just the general movie-loving giddiness of the attendees at the event, this festival is designed with sheer enjoyment in mind. And we encourage the crowd to let loose and celebrate. We’re turning into a widely-acclaimed film festival confronting some very critical issues, and we take ourselves seriously. Yes, we’d like to tell the world that profound film appreciation and entertainment are totally not mutually exclusive. Quite the contrary – we’ll make for an even better film festival.

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  3. Our Backbone: The People
    It is the people that help create such a fun and engaging vibe at WIFF. From the attendees, to the filmmakers and their crews, to the volunteers, to the community members, to the festival creators and organisers, and everyone in between, it’s worth your time and effort to introduce yourself to a few new people at our event. Some people are shy. Some are talkative. Most of them are friendly and happy to be there. And despite being complete strangers, people are always keen to talk about films. So, get to know them. Better, take selfies and follow one another on Instagram 😉

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  4. The Program
    While the event offers a great selection of films and documentaries, it also offers an interesting overall program. From two informative and engaging discussion panels running parallel, to a light stand-up comedy, to odes for remarkable women and heartfelt messages to filmmakers, to an award ceremony for winners, to closing with a light musical performance, we’ve got you all sorted. To end the evening, we are also arranging a dinner segment called Filmy Dinner exclusively with our filmmakers, where they share stories of the high and low points during the filming of their projects. It will be an inspirational discussion and a collaboration opportunity for other amateur filmmakers and students, who can also join us by pre-purchasing a coupon from WIFF team. Details on this can be taken from info@womenthroughfilm.com

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  5. Q&A with the filmmakers
    This year we’re going all in on our engagements and conversations with the filmmakers – our superheroines. After all, the event belongs to them. We’re expecting at least 70% of the filmmakers to be attending WIFF and representing their films. So, get ready to bump into them at the event, and if you have any questions or want to network and discuss their work, you get the perfect opportunity to do so here.

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  6. Because everyone loves food and drinks
    Come on, let’s face it, food and drinks are where the party is at. WIFF this year will be catering for their guests who attend the film festival and will make sure you have a variety of items to select from our Hi-Tea.
  7. Everything is FREE
    Yes, you heard that right! While last year the event was ticketed, as it typically is at most film festivals around the world; this year the organisers bent over backwards to ensure the festival attains enough sustainability so that the attendees are able to attend this event FREE of cost. Shouldn’t this be enough motivation to attend one of the best events in Islamabad? Let us give you a never-forgetting experience. Come on!

Have we convinced you yet? Please know that your support for our film festival, be it encouraging your friends to attend it, spreading the word about it, or just coming to attend it yourself, helps highlight the gender gap in an industry where there are 12 times more male directors than female. As you watch powerful female-driven films on March 11th, we are sure you will know how our film fest is even more relevant in shifting the tide of inequality in this industry.

Women Through Film Campus Ambassadors’ Program

Campus Ambassadors are students in different educational institutes working with Women Through Film to promote the Women International Film Festival on their respective campuses and through social media.

We are thrilled that after receiving over 100 applications for the Campus Ambassador Program we have selected 45 young, passionate and dedicated Ambassadors from different educational institutes of Pakistan. We are happy to announce that we are partnering with 32 institutions across Pakistan.  These institutes are:

  • Fatima Jinnah Women University
  • National University of Science and Technology
  • Quaid e Azam University
  • Bahria University
  • Nantional University of Modern Languages Islamabad
  • Roots IVY Rawalpindi
  • Roots Millennium College, Flagship Campus
  • International Islamic University, Islamabad
  • COMSATS Institute of Information and Technology Islamabad
  • Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology
  • Roots IVY University College F 8 Campus
  • Barani Institute of information and Technology ( Arid University )
  • Federal Urdu University
  • National College of Arts (NCA)
  • Punjab University
  • Girls Degree College
  • University of Karachi
  • Forman Christian College Lahore
  • University of Lahore Sargodha Campus
  • University of Sargodha
  • Beaconhouse National University
  • UET Lahore
  • University of Gujrat
  • University of Peshawar
  • Mirpur University of Science & Technology, Azad Kashmir
  • Hazara University Mansehra
  • Women’s degree college Nazimabad
  • Karakorum International University
  • COMSATS Abbottabad

MEET OUR AMBASSADORS:

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AMBASSADORS FIRST MEET UP:

An orientation session was held for the shortlisted Campus Ambassadors. Our first meet up took place at We Create Center for Islamabad and Rawalpindi based Ambassadors.

The Ambassadors were briefed about their roles and responsibilities, which spanned from social media and on-campus promotions, to organizing workshop events and promoting our festival event. We loved the diversity of the group coming from Chitral, Gilgit, KP, Azad Kashmir, Sindh and Balochistan.

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For all out stationed Ambassadors a Google hangout session was organized.

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We are so excited for this talented group of students to join us for an amazing year ahead for Women Through Film.

Campus Ambassador Program Deadline Extended

14233047_525409334326612_1851789470395338026_n     The submissions for the Campus Ambassador Drive are piling up. We are overwhelmed at the number of responses that we have been receiving.  It is absolutely amazing to see youth willing to pick up all the opportunities they come across in contributing to build a positive Pakistan in these times when there are fewer opportunities for them to showcase their talent and foster change. Women Through Film is not only providing opportunity to film and documentary makers and enthusiasts but also giving a leadership platform to the youth, majorly university students, to play their part in making this world a better place for women. If you are passionate about peaceful social change and are looking for an opportunity to contribute, then don’t wait. Pull the strings and apply to become a Campus Ambassador.

The deadline has been extended. The final date to apply is 23rd September.

Here’s where you can apply:  bit.ly/2bTXkCI

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Roles & Responsibilities of our campus ambassadors:

Campus ambassadors will be responsible for:

  1. Promoting Women International Film Festival within their campus.
  2. Selling tickets of the festival and booking stalls etc. from their campus.
  3. Disseminating the festival’s promotional material within their campus.
  4. Promoting the festival on all the social media forums of their campus.
  5. Encouraging students from their campus to create films for the festival and ensure submission.
  6. Setting up of an information and registration desk for the festival with the help of the Women Through Film core team.
  7. Acquiring required approvals from the campus authorities, and arranging for our activities, such as road shows and workshops etc.
  8. Creative engagement activities among students

Perks for the ambassadors:

Perks for the ambassadors will be on the basis of their performance and activeness.

  1. Highly valuable resume experience with a women-empowerment based entity
  2. A chance to expand your personal networks by developing relationships with students across campus as well as with other campus ambassadors
  3. Sales and social media experience
  4. Official Experience Letter from Women Through Film
  5. Women International Film Festival tickets discounts and free tickets for family members
  6. Potential employment after graduation
  7. Opportunities to participate in Women Through Film professional events
  8. Post-event dinner with speakers, moderators, and filmmakers
  9. One campus ambassador, showing the most promise, will get a chance to win an i-Pad

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Bridging the Gap through Storytelling

Author: Khawar Mahmood

A couple of days back on my long way to office, I came across two very interesting articles on my facebook wall. The first article published in The Express Tribune titled “Pakistan’s youngest social entrepreneur is nine years old” written by Unushay Ashfaq was about a 9 year old Pakistani girl who recently won the Prince Abdul Aziz Award for Children Pioneer/Ecopreneur.  The nine year old Zymal Umar is the founder of an inspiring social project called Zee Bags, an endeavor that not only aims to help the underprivileged but also the environment. This young lady has a vision to clean her city of hazardous plastic bags and replacing them with economical and environment friendly paper bags. The news, if shared on a larger scale to the young and aspiring young girls, can prove to be a beacon of hope for them.

The second article was published in world economic forum titled “3 ways to get more women into leadership positions” written by Carol Li Rafferty, Managing Director, Yale University Beijing. The articles highlight that there are three ways to increase the participation of women in leadership and decision making tier of society. The first and most important key step toward achieving gender balance in leadership is by Women helping Women. It is a moral duty of women in power to advocate for more female representation in all sectors, thereby starting a virtuous cycle of influence. The second important element is Men helping Women, the concept that women should be encouraged and supported by their male family members. Finally the author suggests that this process is not possible until Women help themselves. Suggesting that women themselves should define what their goal in life is and identify the resources that can help them to achieve these ambitions and overcome any obstacles that come along the way.

After reading these articles I spent the whole weekend trying to figure out where the gap lies in our society. On one hand we have brilliant examples such as Zymal and on other hand the percentage of women in leadership and entrepreneurship is incredibly low. According to a research published in World Economic Forum, only 1 out of 10 CEOs is woman. Another research suggests that companies with gender diversity outperform others financially by more than 15%. Below chart depicts a clear picture of why there is this gender gap in workforce.

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What can we do?

After looking at this chart one can easily determine his or her role in reducing gender gap in persisting social setup. To my analysis it is duty of every women entrepreneur to engage more and more women in their circle and encourage them to break old and conventional social barriers to embrace their true goal in life. The success stories of women, breaking gender stereotypes, should be highlighted at every forum to build a more conducive environment for other aspiring young girls. Young girls should be given wider opportunities to observe different career options so that they may have a wider array of choices to opt from, in their professional life. Later, they should be encouraged to boast their confidence to fulfill their aspirations.

On a social level we should try to minimize the “unconscious bias” regarding gender differences. Famous radical feminist Florynce Kennedy once said, “Very few jobs actually require a penis or a vagina. All other jobs should be open to everybody.” There should be complete gender neutrality while recruitment in industry. Media is considered as the fourth pillar of state in present times; this important forum should be used at all levels to uphold this issue of national importance.

Filmmakers in the Spotlight: Nida Fatima

Author: Khawar Mahmood

“Being a woman is the biggest challenge in our patriarchal society and I believe that anyone who is capable of confronting this challenge can stand off any other challenge very easily.”

These are the words Nida Fatimah Zaidi, a very bold and courageous filmmaker and television producer. She is one of Pakistan’s most successful PTV producers making her way up very swiftly with passion and hard work.

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Nida did her Masters in Psychology from Quaid-e-Azam University also known as mini-Pakistan due to its cultural and ethnic diversity. Being a quaidian myself and a very big fan of “Alloo k Parathe” of NIP’s canteen, I bonded with Nida even before meeting her. So our small tid-bits conversation in-between filming her story went very well.

Nida says that she always wanted to do something creative. She was very creative and expressive as a kid and wrote her first poem when she was around twelve. She made her first film for a competition when she was only 22. Although she got in television by chance but she made it her passion and coined her name as a successful female producers in national television at a very young age.

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Ten years ago when Nida joined PTV the situation was very different than it is today. The specialized courses and degrees on film-making and media were not in fashion. People with the background of social sciences used to join TV. It was particularly difficult for a girl to be in this field. According to a study conducted in the USA in 2013 there are only 36.3% women in media in USA while only 16% account for higher hierarchy of top directors, writers, producers and cinematographers.

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In Pakistan, the situation is even worse, as on Global Gender Gap Index Pakistan stands at 132nd position among 134 countries. According to a report on women participation in media industry, less than 5% of journalists are women. Graph bends further backwards when we consider the situation in national television and news agencies. However, Nida, very courageously, withheld all social and systemic challenges, as the famous journalist and feminist author Tiffany Madison said,

“Never trust someone that claims they care nothing of what society thinks of them. Instead of conquering obstacles, they simply pretend they don’t exist.”

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Talking about film, Nida said that films are widely popular and their audio visual nature provides them a pervasive power for social influence. Unlike television where the views of only a limited number and segment of society can be shown, film can be used by anyone to share and express their views. Nida  appreciated the initiatives by Women Through Film wholeheartedly, particularly the Women International Film Festival (WIFFest’17) and extended her best wishes for it.

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Filmmakers in the Spotlight: Yusra Ali

Author: Khawar Mahmood

As Steve Jobs puts it: “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.” Same happened when I asked Yusra Ali, an aspiring architectural filmmaker, that how she came around this very complex yet interesting idea of amalgamating filmmaking with architecture.

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Yusra Ali is a student of Architecture in one of the leading public sector universities in the country. She has already made a couple of very effective short films on social issues prevailing in the country, such as national security issues and importance of female education. She belongs to the Hazara community which has been prone to ethnic violence in the country since long. According to her that is why she is very sensitive to social issues. This incredibly talented and ambitious young lady wants to work in the field in which no one has tried to step in before her in Pakistan.

Recently while on the set of a short documentary on her plans, I got an opportunity to catch up with her and to ask a few questions about her passion and challenges she fear to face in her career. She was quite optimistic about her field of work. Architecture and filmmaking are both forms of conceptualization and creativity, and combining both of these is an excellent initiative, which is now being widely practiced in the developed world, but is still an infant in developing countries such as Pakistan.

Yusra is currently doing her thesis on the topic of “Urban Poor”. She wants to present her work using a film on existing structures, and wants to recommend changes in them accordingly. According to her, the idea of filming her projects came to her mind when she felt that she could express her observations more effectively using the medium of film. Describing the importance of film, she said, “Filmmaking unites all media, you can combine visual, audio, and illustrations in the same presentation, and that is more effective than using the outdated conventional methods used in architectural practices.” She says that using film, one can get his or her viewers to see what they are seeing in something, and in doing so it becomes more communicative and attractive

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However, the biggest challenge for any innovator is to gain acceptability in the system. Same goes for Yusra. She says that the biggest challenge for her is to create acceptability of her work among her peers, her teachers and the jury of her thesis. Also there is very little, or no work in this field to be used as a reference so that is another major challenge that Yusra is facing  but her resolve to coin her work is so strong that she does not consider these issues as hurdles, as was evident by her bright eyes and confident smile throughout the interview.

Talking about the scope of this practice she said that although this field is new, it is very fertile because in Pakistan very few places are properly documented architecturally, particularly our heritage sites, so turning this into a profession is not a bad option. While talking about filmmaking, she said that she found this medium as the most effective medium of expression, and so young girls should come forward to express themselves and about their issues through this medium. She commended the work of Women Through Film and was very excited about the Women International Film Festival; she said that she will submit a film for our festival. Yay!