Thursday, September 30, 2021

Kamla Bhasin – Owning Azadi


Kamla Bhasin – Owning Azadi

(1946- 2021)

By Nupur Basu

Kamla was just one year old when India gained independence from colonial rule. Little did she know then that the slogan of azadi (freedom) was to haunt and be a constant companion for her for the rest of her life.

The irrepressible feminist Kamla Bhasin embraced the word azadi to the core of her very being. So much so that she infused its passion into women of all generations. In her home, on the street, on a small make-shift stage where women gathered to protest and on the biggest international stage, Kamla’s was a constant rallying cry to women to break the shackles of patriarchy and fight for their azadi. Azadi to get education, azadi to get their share of land, azadi from male oppression, azadi from gender based violence. 

It was a term she said she had learnt and embraced from feminists in Pakistan who first raised the slogan of azadi in the Zia regime. Kamla loved it. Borrowed it. Gave it its own Indian flavour – mahilayeen mange azadi  (women demand freedom). In recent years when the term azadi began to be villified as ‘anti national’ Kamla was not one to be even slightly intimidated. 

In every event her songs on azadi rallied more new recruits for the feminist movement not only in India but all of South Asia. South Asia was Kamla’s oyster and she travelled across the borders inspiring women in Bangladesh (where she was Kamla di) Nepal (where she was Kamla diju), Pakistan (where she was Kamla apa), Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and other places. 

Recalls Sri Lankan journalist Dilrukshi Handunettii: “I saw her last three years ago at Asma Jahangir’s residence. Kamla sang, danced, recited poetry in Urdu…what a pioneering South Asian. Many of us went through Sangat and remain deeply indebted to this powerhouse woman.” In her last days from her hospital bed Kamla is supposed to have made constant inquiries about Afghan women and the efforts at evacuating them to safer places.  

Kamla’s passing has left a huge void for feminists who have all paid rich tributes to her and recalled the rich legacy of this poet, author, activist, feminist par excellence. Like many organisations in South Asia, Kamla was a very good friend of IAWRT India Chapter and supported the organisation. She will be an irreplaceable mentor. We will miss her warm hugs and her inspiring songs on azadi. 

Rest in peace Kamla di, Kamla diju, Kamla apa.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Indu Ramesh, a Tribute


Indu Ramesh, a Tribute

1937- 2020

By Smita Ramanathan

The veteran media woman Indu Ramesh, who passed away on 26th August 2020 was a dear friend and mentor who introduced me to the world of media. She had an interest in the world of media right from her childhood days. Her first story was published in a Kannada magazine when she was only fifteen years old. After graduation, she wanted to be a journalist. She even approached a newspaper office in Bangalore, however, she did not get a job as a journalist. She got married and moved to Delhi in the early 1960s. After brief stints as a receptionist and a telephone operator, she cleared a written test and an interview to be appointed as transmission executive in All India Radio. Starting out in the external services division of All India Radio, she went on to become the Station Director of the Commercial Broadcasting Station, Bangalore (Vividh Bharati), at the time of retirement. Under her directorship, CBS Bangalore got the best station award twice in a row.

Radio was her passion. She was very fond of recounting her varied experiences in radio. As a transmission executive her roles included assigning announcers to the right studio, making sure they had the broadcast material, making artists comfortable, making sure announcers were in time for the broadcasts and – during night broadcasts – ensuring they did not fall asleep at the mike, letting the tape end and silence come on air! She enjoyed these tasks as they provided her a learning opportunity. Eventually, she learned to make announcements in the studio herself, thanks to announcers who did not show up in time – the show just had to go on!

She would often recall several memorable events from her days in Delhi AIR. Siddheshwari Devi, who used to bring her little paan box with her when she came for recordings and give all the staff some paan. Rahul Bajaj, whom she presented with a cheque of Rs. 100 after he was interviewed for a show. It was not only the celebrities that she remembered with relish. She spoke with equal joy about the farmer who came into the AIR office with a gift basket of tomatoes in gratitude for the farm advice programmes that had been broadcast on radio. Or the tonga-wallah Pushtu singer who used to come to the studio in his tonga, record his song, collect his payment and ride back in his tonga. In 2019, in an interview she gave to independent filmmaker and theatre person Ranjan Kamath, she talked about her life and work. This can be viewed here on the Youtube channel ‘Mitra Tantra Archive of Personal Narratives’. 

Her interest in the medium made her rise to a leadership position in the organisation. In the early days of radio, when women’s roles were limited to the music, women’s and children’s section, she insisted on handling programmes on politics and newsgathering. Her perseverance paid off and she was soon to gain roles that were hitherto reserved for men – newsgathering and administration. Colleagues at AIR, Bangalore recall her bold and quick decision-making. She was always on the lookout for innovative programming and encouraged her juniors who wanted to try out new ideas. After her death tributes poured in on her facebook page. A younger AIR colleague Anand Patil recollects how in the restrictive atmosphere so common to government organisations, Indu Ramesh provided a whiff of freedom for her staff. Child Rights Activist Vasudev Sharma recalls how she enlisted his support to conduct Yuva Vani programmes (Youth Programme) and encouraged him to do it differently from the way it had been done before on radio – live interviews with youth achievers, quiz programmes for rural youth. For this she sent him to rural Karnataka to record the programmes. She also sent him out to record interviews with rural communities on problems being faced by them. She was always keen to get on the air, voices of the community. It was this interest and the passion for the medium that led her to community radio. After retirement, she got closely involved with the community radio movement. She would often recall with fondness her association with Sucharita Easwar, who introduced her to community radio. This led to her association with Frieda Werden and she became a producer for WINGS (Women’s International News Gathering Services). Programmes she produced for WINGS include a feature on women Gram Panchayat Members, one on the Devadasi Women of Karnataka and their successful struggle for rehabilitation, a feature on the forest women of Karnataka (for which she received a special mention at the IAWRT conference, 2012), and on women seed savers. She served as a mentor and adviser to organisations and individuals that set up CR stations in Karnataka. These include Sarathi Jhalak in Hosakote Bangalore, Namma Dhwani run by the NGO MYRADA in Kolar district and Ramana Dhwani run by the Ramana Maharishi Academy for the Blind in Bangalore.

I learned radio from Indu. I started by accompanying her to the field locations where she was recording for WINGS. I watched her in action – recording the programmes, making sure people spoke one at a time, finding voices to translate the Kannada narration into English. She would then review the recordings, write the script and record the commentary. I used to assist her in reviewing the recordings and script. Later she made me do the recordings and write the script myself. She provided practical advice – to record at least 60  minutes of voice for a 30  minute feature, record any music if possible, speak clearly and slowly while recording, instruct participants to do the same, that a script for a 30 minute feature will have between 3000-4000 words. Later I became a regular contributor to WINGS along with my colleague Manju Venkat. We always ran the script by her. She would have valuable inputs to enhance the quality of the script and therefore the show. I feel quite proud to say that I was coached by the best in the business.

I am grateful to her for her friendship and guidance. 

Friday, September 18, 2020

Kapila ji and IAWRT India: Aradhana Kohli Kapur Remembers

Dr Kapila Vatsyayan

Dec 25, 1928 - Sep 16, 2020

Kapila ji and IAWRT India: Aradhana Kohli Kapur Remembers

IAWRT India has, since its inception, been closely associated with Dr.Kapila Vatsyayan, perhaps an offshoot of her relationship with the late Jai Chandiram, our founder. In fact the much awaited and acclaimed annual Asian Women’s Film Festival held at the India International Centre began as a part of the Asia Project headed by Dr.Vatsyayan to bring to the fore voices of women from across borders in Asia. In 2005 as she spearheaded the Asia Project in its second phase she asked Jai Chandiram to organize a festival of documentary films, long and short, made by Asian women, as she firmly believed a concentrated effort was required to provide an inclusive space for women to express their creativity across different mediums. Films to her were a very important and effective means to do so.

Each year she would advise, guide and inaugurate the festival as a firm but involved matriarch. Her first question was always: So what are you going to do this year? She had a great eye for the new, the unique. Films from smaller nations in Asia, from marginalized, minority communities, were of special interest as were audio installations. For her all art was sacred be it sculpture, embroidery, photography, painting et al.

The high standards of professionalism and aesthetics that she set by example will always be our guiding principles at IAWRT India. Every year, she would quietly walk in a little before time for the Inauguration ceremony without fuss inspect the stage the flower decoration and always, as a mark of respect, she would take her footwear off before climbing the stage. On March 5, 2020, like every year, she attended our opening ceremony, lit the lamp and spoke about her late friend Jai and her vision for IAWRT.  Sadly, this would probably be her last public event as the COVID pandemic broke soon after.

Even as the entire cultural world feels the loss at her passing,  we at IAWRT India do so just that much more for we have truly lost one of our ‘founding mothers’. She would have smiled at that phrase ‘founding mothers’ because she, above all, epitomised the feminine as the source - the beej of all creativity.

Kapila ji with IAWRT members and filmmakers at IAWRT 2020 Film Festival, IIC. 

Thursday, June 4, 2020

16th IAWRT ASIAN WOMEN’S FESTIVAL – celebrating women in cinema By Surabhi Sharma, Festival Director & Priya Thuvassery, Co–Director

Fifty-two films directed by Asian women filmmakers representing 15 countries were showcased at the 16th edition of the IAWRT Asian Women's Festival held in partnership with India International Centre (IIC)-New Delhi from 4 - 7 March, 2020.

March 4 – Workshop – We make Cinema
The festival kicked off with a robust day-long workshop titled – We Make Cinema. The workshop provided an open space to discuss and deepen the understanding of the myriad paths women take to make the films they want. Many of the films being made by women offer a glimpse of lives and histories that remain unrecorded or under-represented. This prompted the design of the workshop which was divided into two sessions.

Session 1: We Archive Stories

While making films are we archiving histories, lives, labour or art? How can we seek stories hidden in archival material? Ideas around the archives that filmmakers create and unearth were presented by filmmakers, academics, an archivist and an arts research foundation director. Their presentations prompted a rich and engaged discussion around ethics and erasures in the practice of filmmaking and building visual archives. 

This session was moderated by Navaneetha Mokkil, academic and women’s Studies Scholar and writer. She connected the ideas and insights presented by Sameera Jain, filmmaker and film Practice teacher, with the presentations on the theme of archiving hidden histories put forward by Ozge Calafoto, Photography Archivist, Arundhati Ghosh, director of India Foundation for the Arts and Nina Sabnani, animation filmmaker, illustrator, researcher and academic.

Session 2: We Produce Films

What are the myriad opportunities, strategies and struggles that women filmmakers negotiate while shaping their films? How do we produce films? This session began with three filmmakers presenting their works in progress. Two documentary projects and one fiction feature at the scripting stage were presented by Farha Khatun, Subasri Krishnan and Prachee Bajania.  This prompted robust feedback and discussion amongst the participating film producers, festival curators, representatives of an arts funding organization, camera equipment manufacturers, women collectives working in film and individual filmmakers. Participants of the round table discussion put forward their experiences as producers, festival curators, funders and filmmakers. Both their experiences as being women and their experiences of the networks and industries they worked within. Members of the Women in Cinema Collective and Indian Women Cinematographers’ collective spoke from a slightly different perspective and spoke about the need to self- represent as a women’s collective and not just as individuals fighting for space and visibility.

For the three filmmakers who had presented their work, this became an excellent space to discuss not only their own work but to engage with different stakeholders who could possibly support different stages of their filmmaking. Shilpi Gulati, Filmmaker and PhD scholar on Independent film funding was able to bring together the many strands of discussions into a comprehensive frame within which to understand independent filmmaking and its challenges.

Participants of the round table discussion: 
Farha Khatun, Filmmaker
Prachee Bajania, Filmmaker
Subasri Krishnan, Filmmaker
Aditi Anand –Producer, Red Cart Films
Miriam Joseph- Independent Producer
Priyanka – Producer, Holy Rights Films
Deepti Gupta- Filmmaker and co-founder of IWCC**
Shilpi Gulati- filmmaker and researcher on film funding
Gaurav Markan and colleague, Canon India
Arundhati Ghosh, Arts and Culture Funding Practice
Deepti Dcunha- Festival Curator, Film Bazaar
Ozge Calafoto, Phd Scholar, Photography Archivist, Festival Curator
Miriam Chandy- Filmmaker, Independent Producer
We got very positive feedback on the workshop with the suggestion that the session of filmmakers sharing their work in progress become a regular feature at the festival.
The workshop was curated by IAWRT members Bina Paul, Aparna Sanyal, Surabhi Sharma and Priya Thuvassery.

March 5 – IAWRT Asian Women’s film festival begins.

Screening of films began at the C D Deshmukh auditorium at the India International Centre (IIC) from the morning of March 5. Day one showcased films by women directors from different countries. Most screenings ended with a Q and A with the filmmaker in attendance and good discussions with the audience. The apprehensions regarding participation in the festival due to the communal violence in certain parts of the city the previous week were thankfully dispelled as the auditorium began filling up as the day progressed. Many audience members and participating filmmakers shared with us how healing it felt to be in a collective space with positive and creative energy.

The much-awaited opening ceremony of the festival started with a four-minute delightful film from Iran – Granddad was a Romantic by Maryam Mohajer, setting the perfect mood for the evening. This was followed by the formal inauguration in the presence of partner institutions, attending filmmakers and a large number of IAWRT members. Nupur Basu, Managing Trustee, IAWRT, chapter India, underlined the vision and commitment of the network of women members of IAWRT both globally and in India in highlighting the work of women in TV, radio, film and media research. Festival Director, Surabhi Sharma and Co-director Priya Thuvassery shared glimpses of the specific highlights of the current edition of the festival. The chief guests for the evening were IIC director K. N. Shrivastava, Sandeep Marwah, founder of Marwah Studios and Dr.Kapila Vatsyayan, Chairperson, IIC-International Research Division, IIC. They lit the ceremonial lamp and officially opened the festival with encouraging words about IAWRT’s activities and the festival into its 16th edition.

At the inauguration, the IAWRT - Shaw fellowship was formally instituted by IAWRT member, Padmaja Shaw, in the memory of her late husband Rajendra Shaw, a filmmaker who had devoted his life to socially conscious media interventions The bi-annual fellowship will fund a scholarship to a Dalit student studying media or film.

Suresh Chandiram, the brother of late Jai Chandiram, Founder of IAWRT, Chapter India, was presented with a book –“The Dotted Lines- Bhuri Bai- the Bhil artist” by Debjani Mukherjee, a previous recipient of the Jai Chandiram Memorial Fellowship (JCFM).

The group photo on stage with all the participating filmmakers and IAWRT members has become a cherished, mandatory event with its celebration of women in cinema and media. This year was no exception!

IAWRT office bearers Aparna Sanyal, Secretary and Deepika Sharma, Treasurer welcomed the guests and filmmakers on stage and gave the vote of thanks.

A heavy downpour that evening had us worried about attendance but the opening film Shut up Sona by Deepti Gupta saw a packed auditorium. Filmmaker Gupta and her protagonist, singer Sona Mohapatra, were present. The screening was followed by an animated conversation with Gupta and Mohapatra moderated by IAWRT board member and filmmaker, Samina Mishra. The evening closed with Sona Mohapatra treating the audience by singing some of her popular songs.

This was followed by the opening dinner- although this had to be moved a the last moment from lovely IIC Rose Garden to an indoor hall due to the heavy rain - it did not dampen the invitees and IAWRT members who came in large numbers and enjoyed the networking dinner.

We received over 700 entries and the number of excellent films we could not include in the festival almost equalled the number of films we did select. That indicates the quality of entries and gives a sense of the exciting films that women are making. We were proud to screen not only films which have already been recognised at prestigious international film festivals but also ones which had their World premieres at our event. The selection committee included film scholars and practitioners - Deepti Khurana, Kavita Carneiro, Navaneetha Mokkil along with the festival directors. Screenings were followed by question and answer sessions moderated by the selection committee. Animations, short fiction, feature and documentary films screened at the festival. 

We saw some key themes emerge at the festival giving a good sense of the themes that women filmmakers are working with. A dominant theme was the coming of age stories with female protagonists. Set in different cultural contexts, these films were evocative of both the anxieties faced and possibilities explored by young women. Women filmmakers looking at environmental concerns brought a significantly different perspective even within the developmental debates informing our understanding of the climate crisis. Films like Jaadui Jungle, Mod Bhang, If She Built a Country, Kere Mattu Kere were some of the films that provoked rich conversations around ways of thinking through the environmental crisis. 

Another theme that emerged in some of the Indian films was on the issue of the erasure and marginalization of communities in the current political context.  Iq Rah, Noor Islam, Makhfi, Memories of Saira and Salim were curated into one session and together the films evoked a deep and nuanced narrative. All four films were student film that engaged with the form to tell stories that are not easy to tell in a literal and investigative manner. The Turkish film, Amina and the Chinese-UAE film Vicky, I and Herself presented a view of women migrant workers and issues around identity and visible/invisible labour.  The Iranian film, Portrait of Ms.F and the Indian film, Holy Rights spoke about two very different contexts in which women asserted their rights within an Islamic state and within families governed Islamic law. Mother of Fire and Honey, Rain and Dust were two films from the UAE that challenged the outsider’s stereotype of Emirati life.

There were a range of genres- Feature-length documentaries, short fiction, animation films, hybrid genres that blurred fiction and documentary and self-reflexive films. The discussions and conversations that followed the films created an engaged and exciting space that IAWRT Chapter India has been able to create year after year at the India International Centre, New Delhi through this festival.

The festival had a curated session Her Upside Down Gaze by multi/new media artist Afrah Shafiq. This section included five hybrid films set in India that leak across film genres, mixing the conventions of documentary, narrative, fiction and poetry. These films that stretch and jostle the genres that tend to box film practice. This is a selection of Asian filmmakers who are not merely experimenting but are shifting and shaping a distinct film language.

This editions country focus was UAE curated by filmmakers Subasri Krishnan and Surabhi Sharma. Three films in this package bought with them a cast of unexpected characters from the UAE. Audacious and hilarious, immersive and meditative, intimate yet distant- all three films allowed for a dense engagement with women filmmakers from the UAE. They offered multiple lenses for the audience to get a glimpse of lives in the UAE that go beyond the stereotype that the rest of the world have about this region. 

The festival invited both national and international filmmakers whose films had been selected to participate in the three-day festival. Due to the COVID pandemic restrictions, many filmmakers had to cancel their trips last minute but these filmmakers made it to the festival and made the festival meaningful.
Renu Savant - Mod Bhaang 
Prachee Bajania – Makhfi
Deepti Gupta- Saboot 
Lakshmi Marikar- Blackhead
Rhea Mathews - Stains
Shireen Ghosh - Maa Tuki 
Nabina Chakraborty - Iq Rah-one Path, Many Journeys
Maheen Mirza and Richin - If she built a country
Mehvish Rather - Kandurwan, Baking History
Archana Chandrashekar - Jaadui Jungle
Rebana Liz John’s parents & protagonists of the film - Ships Outside My Window
Farha Khatun - Holy Rights
Priyanka More- Producer of Holy rights 
Deepti Gupta - Shut Up Sona
Devshree Nath - Noor Islam
Priya Sen - Yeh Freedom Life  
Hansa Thapliyal - The Outside In
Suborna Senjutee Tushee - Meenalaap

Women and photography 

Another highlight of the festival was the Women and Photography section where we looked at stories embedded within the single still image by inviting photographers and a photography archivist to present their work. Özge Calafato, Masrat Zahra and Sanna Irshad Mattoo to presented their work as part of this. Twelve photographs including four by Roanna Rahman in partnership with OXFAM India on the women tea plantation workers were exhibited in the premises of IIC during the festival.  


Özge Calafato presented the work of women photographers from Turkey with a focus on 4 pioneer photographers between 1910 and 1960. The representation of women changed through the transition from the Ottoman empire to Turkey, and family albums and studio photographs bear witness to these transitions.

Masrat Zahra and Sanna Irshad Mattoo are photographers from Kashmir and they presented their most recent works documenting the transitions in the lives around them. They were in conversation with IAWRT board member, Subasri Krishnan

Cinematography and photography technology 
On the second day of the festival, Canon India conducted a workshop on Cinematography and photography technology at the Conference room of IIC. An experience zone exhibiting latest Canon Cinema EOS cameras, DSLRs and printing machines were exhibited at the workshop venue and film festival attendees and students got hands-on experience. Unfortunately, COVID scares with sudden university closures affected this programme as students were unable to attend though they had registered.

The closing film for the festival was Honey, Rain and Dust a documentary film by UAE filmmaker poet, artist Nujoom Al Ghanem. The filmmaker was unable to attend at the last minute because of the travel restrictions imposed in the UAE due to COVID-19.

Overall the festival received an overwhelming response amidst the chaos in the capital and a global pandemic fear. Most of the screenings were attended by cinephiles, media students, media professionals, academicians, feminists, researchers, IIC members and representatives from various organizations. The major highlights continued to be the active participation of the audience in post-film discussions.

Our thanks to:
The 16th IAWRT Asian Women's Film Festival would not have been possible without the support of our valued principal partner of over sixteen years - the India International Centre (IIC), New Delhi. 

Our special thanks is due to IIC Director K N Shrivastava, Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, Chairperson, IIC-International Research Division, IIC and Lalsawmliani Tochhawng, Chief, Programme Division and Secretary, IIC Film Club and all the supporting staff at IIC who helped us coordinate all the logistics over months and gave us all the support we needed.Our other partners for this edition of the festival were: Freidrich-Ebert-Stiftung,India (FES), Oxfam India, Jamia Bank, UN Women, Canon India, Marwah Studios and Cinestaan. There are also some individuals whom we must thank personally – Sunita Dhar, Akhila Sivadas, Meenal Manolika, Sanya Seth, Nishtha Satyam, Debasish Mazumdar , Sandeep Marwah ,Tejas Patel, Gaurav Markan. Arundhati Ghosh and Sukhpreet Kahlon.

This festival would also not have been possible without the active support of the former managing trustee Reena Mohan and our entire IAWRT Chapter India Board – Nupur Basu, Aparna Sanyal, Deepika Sharma, Ananya Chakraborti, Bina Paul, Mausumi Bhattacharya, Paromita Vohra, Samina Mishra and Subasri Krishnan. We are also very grateful to the help extended by IAWRT members Afrah Shafiq, Aradhana Kohli Kapur, Aruna Vasudev and Imrana Khan. A big thank you to you all! 

We can't thank enough to Zoya Riyas for her work on the logo, poster and publicity material design. And a special thanks also to Valson, our chief projectionist who ensured uninterrupted screenings with top-class projection over the three - day festival.  Thanks also to our festival assistant Nabina Chakraborty, Pallavi Paul and the volunteers from Delhi University and Vishwabharti University, Shantiniketan who worked tirelessly to guide the festival attendees.In the end, it was teamwork that got us through this wonderful 16th edition.

Monday, February 24, 2020


Introduction to the 16th IAWRT Asian Women's Film Festival by Festival Director Surabhi Sharma and Co-Director Priya Thuvassery

We are proud and indeed privileged to be a part of the team that has shaped the 16th edition of The IAWRT Asian Women's Film Festival. The breadth of the entries that we received this year in terms of genre, form, themes and cultural contexts was staggering. From student films to films made by established professionals in the field, we received a breathtaking array of voices and visions of women observing, interrupting, reflecting on and expressing their worlds. Each film adds to a delicate and dazzling tapestry of ideas and articulations by women filmmakers in Asia. 

52 films representing 15 countries made by Asian women filmmakers will be screened along with other highlights at the 16th IAWRT Asian Women's Film Festival. We received 700 entries and the number of excellent films we could not include in the festival almost equalled the number of films we did select. That indicates the quality of entries and gives a sense of the exciting films that women are making. We are proud to be screening not only films which have already been recognised at prestigious international film festivals but also ones which will have their World premieres at our event.

We felt it is important to discuss and deepen our understanding of the myriad paths women take to make the films they want to. Many of the films being made by women offer a glimpse of lives and histories that remain unrecorded or under-represented. This prompted the design of our workshop, We Make Cinema, that is divided into two sessions, We Archive Histories and We Produce Films. In the section titled Women and Photography we look at stories embedded within the single still image by inviting photographers and a photography archivist to present their work. Her Upside Down Gaze is an attempt to bring together films that stretch and jostle the genres that tend to box film practice. This is a selection of Asian filmmakers who are not merely experimenting but are shifting and shaping a distinct film language. Our country-focus in this edition is on the United Arab Emirates and we bring together three very different films that offer multiple lens to get a glimpse of lives in the UAE that go beyond the stereotype that the rest of the world have about this region. 

Women filmmakers offer a way to listen and to see the world through the prism defined by themes such as environment, democracy, gender, migration, sexuality, citizenship.... Welcome to another edition of films by Asian women. 

Note by Nupur Basu, Managing Trustee IAWRT India Chapter

In the summer of 2019 I sat in on an animated discussion in a room full of women filmmakers and curators in Turkey's capital city, Ankara . The occasion was a round table to share experiences on 'why we do what we do'. The women participants were from nine different countries. Besides the host country ,Turkey, they were from France, Germany, Portugal, Lebanon, Canada, Chile, Spain and I was from India. The participants were all representing film festivals that were exclusively made by women filmmakers.

The consensus around the table was that these spaces were sacrosanct and needed to be preserved,however challenging the task. The oldest women-only festival was from France and was into its 43rd edition . The youngest was from Lebanon - just two editions old.

In our 16th edition of our IAWRT Asian Women's Film festival I am convinced like never before that this exclusive non competitive cinema space we have created for Asian women directors in India needs to be nurtured.

As the world passes through turbulent times politically and democracies are under strain, the inner reflections of women filmmakers on what they make of this chaos,finds expression in their cinematic craft. After all, in cinema, the personal is political.

Whether it is a Senegalese woman working as a dress model in Istanbul , a Vietnamese architect trying to make a successful career in London or South East Asian women migrants working in Abu Dhabi, in film after film the protagonists ask searching questions on identity, migration, separation and loss . Memory and dreams often become the escape device for survival.

In its 16th edition of the festival through 51 films, an evocative photography exhibition by four women photographers and a workshop titled "We Make Cinema", IAWRT again showcases the range and aspirations of Asian women filmmakers .

Come and relish the magic of these creative expressions...the images, we are sure, will embed in your memory for a long time to come.