The IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival (AWFF) is an annual film festival organised by the India Chapter of the International Association of Women in Radio & Television (IAWRT) to mark the International Women’s Day. The 17th Edition of AWFF took place online, from 5th to 7th March 2021, facilitated a digital space to showcase films and discussions during the prevailing conditions of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The festival programme showcased films made by women filmmakers from Asia and of Asian origin from India, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Afghanistan, Armenia, Malaysia, United States, Finland, Belgium, and Iran. This year, the experiences of living through the pandemic had shaped the underlying thread of uncertainty that ran through the voices and practices that the festival presented, curated by Nina Sabanai, Smriti Nevatia & Deepti Khurana. Through a mix of fiction, non-fiction, animation and experimental films, the festival encouraged viewers to look at the challenges facing the world, to think through & to imagine new possibilities. The festival featured Conversations around the films to generate dialogue and reflection on ideas and form, making room for filmmakers, across the globe, to share their process. This was strengthened by two Masterclasses – on editing in films with the award-winning editor, Jabeen Merchant and, on sound in films with the renowned sound practitioner Amala Popuri, which focused on questions of craft and practice, and how women practitioners respond to challenges in their work. A special feature of the festival was films by first-time women filmmakers to showcase how the young experience the world as they translate their ideas & experiences into films.
The films included in this edition have won accolades at prestigious film festivals, while some had their Indian, Asian and World premieres at AWFF 2021. A deeply investigative documentary about citizens’ journalism and dissent in China, Broken Harmony: China’s Dissidents had it’s World Premiere. Experimental works, For Tashi and Space Dialogues had their Asian premiere. Two films from Armenia were Indian Premiere – Tombé and Village of Women. The Art of Living in Danger, a strong Iranian film about a campaign against domestic violence in Iran and the dire consequences that women face for protesting and raising their voices saw its Indian premiere. The festival also showcased The Orphanage, a film which pays tribute to Bollywood, while portraying deeply troubled Afghanistan of the late 1980s, that was shown in the Directors’ Fortnight section at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.
To facilitate worldwide viewership, each film was made available for a 48-hour window of free streaming via the festival’s online Screening Room. Discussions with the filmmakers and Masterclasses streamed live, open & free for all to access. The festival received over fifteen hundred worldwide registrations. The viewership gathered in its first ever online endeavour is immense & extremely motivating to help grow this community of cinephiles & thinkers.