A star-studded audience has joined TUB Campus for one of the biggest panel of the fourth edition of El Gouna Film Festival which is ‘Women’s Empowerment Through Film’ on October 26.
Raya Abirached leads a discussion on ‘Women’s Empowerment Through Film’, with the likes of acclaimed filmmakers Menna Shalaby, Najwa Najjar, Richa Chadha, general director of Dox Box Jihan El Tahri, and journalist, filmmaker and representative of the Sisters in Film organisation, Dorothee Myriam Kellou.
These bunch of dazzling filmmakers gave their two cents on the challenges that continue to stand in the way of women at every level of the film industry.
The panel tackled that while the film industry is becoming a fairer and more level playing field, there’s still much work to be done when it comes to women in the industry.
What about the female editors, DOPs and other personnel? Are they getting a fair chance? What about fair and equal pay? What about funding opportunities? What about festival film selections and awards? This was the topic of conversation in ‘Women’s Empowerment Through Film’ panel, in which AbiRached led a fascinating discussion with these dazzling female filmmakers.
The panel was attended by Sherine Reda, Leqaa Elkhamissi, Tara Emad, as well as Amr Mansi, founding member and executive advisor of El Gouna Film Festival.
Director Jihan El Tahri said that there is a large number of female directors, but other industries such as cinematography, sound engineering and others suffer from a severe shortage of female cadres.
This is in addition to the absence of women in decision- making in the film industry.
She also indicated that the lack of funding is one of the major obstacles to effective representation of women in the field.
“There is a missing link, the woman is forgotten in the realm of decision-making, and her presence will enable
her to create a new reality. This is a necessity until the old reality disappears.”
Palestinian director Najwa Najjar commented that there are serious attempts in Palestine to create a gender balance in the workforce, so that there is 50% representation for women, and that this approach is based on the competence of women and not just a kind of honorable representation. “Female cadres receive training in the fields of cinema and compete.
However, the main problem remains the absence of women from certain fields such as cinematography.”
She added that the presence of women in scenarios that are formulated for dramatic and cinematic works, usually plays a complementary role to the role of men, and thus there is a need for screenplays that enhance the role of women.
French filmmaker and journalist of Algerian descent, Dorothée Myriam Kellou, representative of the “Sisters in Film” initiative, added: “The initiative is a women›s gathering of 9 Arab directors whose aim is to support each other in facing their filmmaking challenges, and to extend a helping hand to other filmmakers
in the future--in the Arab world, as well as in the diaspora. They get together and help each other in making films, and give each other advice to present their works,” adding that it is important to encourage and support emerging voices.
Shalaby said, “I enjoy working with women and previously worked with directors Hala Khalil, Kamil Abu Zekry and Wissam Suleiman. But we do have a problem; women do not have decision-making powers in the film industry.” Shalabi added that she has been fortunate to have presented roles that revolve around women, albeit a few, including her roles in “ Ahla el Awat” (The Best of Times) and Nawara .
She explained that the real dilemma remains
in being able to make films that represent women, but at the same time, combine pleasure, attractiveness and thought.
This is rare, she explained, as the film industry is divided into what is known as “festivals films”, and other “commercial” films.
“Making films for the mass public in an artistic way and real discourse is what we are missing. Only a few female directors have managed to strike this balance.”
On the other hand, Indian star Richa Chadda said that in the last 10 years, Indian cinema has started to take a greater turn in the representation of women, and that this is a late response to globalization. Now, thanks to global digital platforms, the matter has become different, especially since they do not strictly look
at the box office anymore.
This, in Chadda’s opinion, provides an opportunity to present different films that can be built around women, with her existence in a different light. In general, she believes that there is a significant improvement in the status of women in Indian cinema.