The first edition of the Wench Film Festival, which will be held virtually from March 6 to 14, has a lineup of films by 41 filmmakers, both Indian and international. The film festival will focus on the need to shift from the male gaze to the female gaze in mainstream cinema.
“Working in the ad world for so many years, I have only worked with just four female dirctors. And it was just beginning to get to me a little bit because there is no shortage of female directors per se, but just the shortage of representation,” founder Sapna Moti Bhavnani told Silverscreen India.
Bhavnani said Zoya Akhtar, Alankrita Shrivastava, and Farah Khan, were among the few female directors that people were aware of.
“This was just a platform created to showcase the immense talent that women filmmakers hold and not to prove that women are better than men,” she said.
The festival has a line up of 41 projects categorised as 18 feature films, 12 short films, and 11 films curated for children.
A platform for both recognition and dialogue that will also address questions pertaining to the dearth of female filmmakers, technicians, and crew, and why “despite there being female filmmakers, technicians, and crew, they are not essentially contributing to construct the female gaze in mainstream cinema which actually influences the mainstream peoples’ psyche,” festival curator Rwita Dutta told Silverscreen India.
Bhavnani, also a hair-stylist, writer, director, and producer, said that it’s “not about the sob stories of women”.
Bhavnani, who has acted in the play Nirbhaya and is best known as the director and producer of the award-winning documentary Sindhustan that will also be featured at the festival, said: “While women empowerment makes for the underlying concept, the festival also becomes an overarching platform for the LGBTQIA+ and the queer identities.”
Apart from screenings, the week-long online festival will be sprinkled with seven panel discussions on burning topics like consent and intimacy on sets, and inclusivity matters.
“We just decided that we want our panels to be more knowledge-based and not just opinion-based like ‘what do you think about this?’. We are not breaking glass ceilings. I think we are done with that. We are just promoting the works of women filmmakers, that nobody knew about. It is to let the world know that they exist as well,” Bhavnani said.
“With these discussions, you will have knowledge as a filmmaker. So, if tomorrow I am making a film, I need to know that there needs to be the internals committee. I will tell my producer to make sure that there is this committee. As an actor, you need to know that there are these committees especially when certain scenes are on the sexual side,” she said.
The panelists will comprise women from sectors they are less associated with. For example, “The Sound of Music” panel discussion comprises women sound designers, music composers and producers.
“It’s not just about women making films for women. It’s about women making films for all genres and that’s why we have created a mix of films of all genres,” Bhavnani said.
The event will stream on the Facebook page of the Whistling Woods Foundation.