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Women’s Voices Now: Women’s Film Festival on Emancipation

Women’s Voices Now: Women’s Film Festival on Emancipation
    written by
    Mai Ayyad

    ‘One wonders if
    women still exist, if they will always exist, whether or not it is desirable
    that they should, what place they occupy in this world, and what their place
    should be,’ Simone de Beauvoir wrote in The Second Sex.

    What has become of
    the woman?

    She is imprisoned in her own sex, striving to negotiate her identity in
    the society that she lives in. Her individual development and relations have
    been deformed by the pervasive patriarchal ideologies that link her femininity
    to submission.

    Feminism is an often debated issue, yet it is not yet exhausted. One of
    the latest additions to this field is US-based non-profit organisation Women’s
    Voices Now.

    The project developed as Catinca Tabacaru, Miriam Wakim
    and Cassandra Schaffa thought of ways to materialise women’s lived realities.
    Whatever that may be, they insisted that it should be done through women’s own

    As its first project, the organisation hosts Women’s Voices from the Muslim World: A Short-Film Festival,
    that ‘marries artists with activism, and focuses on the extension of women’s

    It took six months of extensive research to crystallise
    the idea that was originally proposed by Leslie Sacks, the organisation’s
    Founder, foremost supporter and seed funder.

    ‘By empowering women in the Muslim countries, you will be
    getting to the crux of where the women’s movement is happening now,’ says
    Tabacaru. ‘Within Muslim majority countries, there are challenges against the
    limitations and abuses of women’s rights. There is also pro-women work being
    done, and resourceful educated women working for one another.’

    Being a
    non-profit organisation in the US entails having a plan. The plan of Women’s Voices
    Now is an educational one – filling the void in the available information about the
    Muslim world, and looking for alternative ways to look into the lives of women.

    ‘Mainstream media sources tell one side of the
    story,’ Wakim points out. ‘We do not want to rely on CNN, or the New York Times for our information;
    we want to have an unfiltered voice that comes straight from the women in

    The impressive
    women directors are courageous enough to admit that their philosophy and work
    are a kind of feminist activism, exposing the struggle of women as well as the
    filmmakers themselves.

    Given the
    educational and didactic agenda of the organisation, clichéd and stereotypical
    representations of women are absent from the festival. The woman is the subject;
    she is the heroine bearing a long history of victimisation.

    This image was
    taken in consideration when determining the scope of the films. The directors
    had a standard for the films to be accepted; they put aside anything that looks
    like propaganda, anything hateful to a certain people or place, and anything
    overly political.

    The result is a
    selection of films that conform to the purpose of the organisation, while still
    preserving an artistic value.

    Over 200 films
    were submitted; 98 were accepted, of which six are Egyptian: Her Man and
    Spring ’89 by Ayten Amin, Nour by Mona Makram, The Nonsense
    by Noha Reshwan, Male and Female by Ahmed Adel, and Girls’ Talk
    by Mayye Zayed.

    ‘The Egyptian
    filmmakers that we have in the competition are able to address their issues
    from an artistic, peaceful place,’ says Tabacaru. ‘The films are lighter in
    comparison to others; yet they still convey the message without being overtly

    Depending on
    the word of fifteen judges, including film directors, art professors, critics,
    artists and journalists, the top three films will be chosen from each category
    (Fiction, Documentary, Student and Experimental), followed by eight honourable mentions,
    and three prizes for the audience choice awards via online voting.

    The organisation depends on
    fundraising and donations for its funding, and is hoping to bring winning filmmakers to Hollywood
    for the festival’s ceremony on March 17, 2011s through donations via You can visit the site to make your own donation or see how much
    they’ve collected so far.

    Women Voices
    Now is animated by the desire to demand for women’s rights. Equally important,
    it clarifies their position in the world, presenting talented women directors
    as well as stories of resilience and independence.

    The film
    festival comes in the form of an online platform. Herein lies its brilliance;
    all the films are available as long as there is internet access. Check out the site here.

    Watch our impressive
    Egyptian films and vote for their talented artists. Then, have a cinematic
    cruise across the Muslim world and enjoy some fantastic filmmaking.

    Reviews for all
    the Egyptian films in the competition will be published here on Cairo 360.