The International Images Film Festival for Women was held from December 12 through December 15 at the Alliance Francaise and the Elite 100. Thirteen films from twelve countries were shown. Five were short films. One was a one hour long portrait. The remaining seven were full length feature films. Two panel discussions were also programmed these were entitled "Beauty: A Dangerous Media Package?" and "Depicting Women: The Ruthless Cinema?"
All films had an audience, in spite of the prevailing fuel crisis in the country. Audiences also participated fully in selecting the prize winning films. The panel discussion, "Beauty: A Dangerous Media Package?" also resulted in a lively discussion. Unfortunately, the same was not true of the discussion "Depicting Women?"
Dominic Benhura, the internationally renowned stone sculptor, donated prizes from his studio. These sculptures all reflected on aspects of women's lives and were accompanied by authenticity certificates.
The festival would not have taken place without the support of the British High Commission, whose thirty five millimetre entry "The Theory of Flight" and accompanying cocktail party enabled WFOZ to dignify the event with the appellation film festival. The same is also true of the Belgian Embassy's contribution of a cocktail party, which provided the closing ceremony. This cannot be a coincidence: deep gratitude is owed to Sophie Honey at the British High Commission and Ambassador Ms Fankinet at the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium.
In addition, WFOZ would like to thank all the participating countries who entered films, for their support and interest in the event, which opens up an area of debate most necessary in very traditional (male chauvinist?) Zimbabwe. These countries are: Burkina Faso, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Iran, Namibia, Norway, People's Republic of China, Portugal, Tunisia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Finally the attendance and support given to the festival in very trying times indicates that the local arts calendar has space for such an event annually. Recommendations are made as to how to improve the scope and impact of the festival.
Prizes were won by the following entries:
Most positive image of a woman: Raya, South Africa, 2001.
This film automatically won the director and producer's prize for the most positive portrayal of a woman. The director is the South African director Zulfa Sullies, and the producer is Simon Bright of Zimmedia. The film tells the story of a young Asian South African woman who comes out of jail, having served term for a drug offence. On release, Raya has to rebuild her life. She has a young daughter by her ex-lover, who is a drug dealer. It looks as though coming out of jail will mean back into the old life. But Raya finds enough resolve within herself, and relies on the strength of her mother to begin a new life. A new beginning means rupture with the past, including the father of her child and her mother. However Raya's determination carries her forward to a better beginning, and enables her to finally take on the responsibility of caring for her young daughter, who had been cared for by the grandmother. Through all this, Raya remains warm, humorous and palpably, fallibly human.
The prize for the diplomatic mission that presented the film with the most attractive and positive image of a woman was won by the People's Republic of China, with the film "The Xiao Yao Valley in Song Mountains. At the end of the Qing Dynasty, the master of Xiaoyao School, before his death, handed down the Xiaoyao Sword and the Board of "Morals First" to his first disciple, Li Laoquan, and drove his second disciple, Zhao Bantian, away from Xiaoyao Valley. He told Li Laoquan to continue upholding morals first in the martial school. Thirty years later, Zhao comes back. Ganging up with the local ruffian, he makes a lot of trouble for Li Laoquan in order to take over the Xiaoyao School. Thus it caused a series of breath-taking struggles between justice and evil, love and hatred. This struggle involves the disciple's daughter. A martial arts expert, herself, she helps her young lover practice the arts and engages in the fight headlong when she sees young women being taken to evil Zhao's brothel. She is also aware of her powers as a physical woman when she insists on the man of her choice, her father's new disciple, rather than her father's earlier disciple, whom everyone had expected she would marry. Such is the strength of her character and conviction that she wins both the fight against evil and the blessing of her family in her choice of partner. (It's a bit complicated. Raya was entered by Zimmedia and not by the South African Embassy, so the most positive image of a woman goes to the production house rather than the embassy. The heroine in this film came out second when all the votes were counted, but is the most highly rated entry that was entered by an embassy.)
The British entry, "The Theory of Flight" also raised a lot of interest. Richard is a struggling artist in the midst of a breakdown that has left his career and his love life in tatters. He attempts an ill-conceived insurance fraud and gets caught. He's sentenced to 120 hours community service in lieu of jail. His assignment is to act as caregiver to wheelchair bound Jane who has a rare degenerative neurological disorder. Jane turns out to be anything but a timid and helpless paraplegic. Richard finds her sarcastic, profane and mischievous, and as uninhibited as he is repressed. At first Richard is convinced that he is not the right person for the job, but Jane and he soon settle into a truce that blossoms into a deep and mutually supportive friendship. Then Jane shocks Richard by announcing that it's his responsibility to help her achieve her fondest, most impossible wish to experience, along with the rest of humanity, the joy of sexual intimacy - a request that forces Richard into a tailspin of conflicting feelings and wild adventures. Audiences found this film profoundly moving, and we need to see more of these kinds of films here. this is the purpose of a festival such as IFF.
The panel discussion "Beauty, a dangerous media package?" showed that the participants and audience had been thinking deeply about the issue. Many interesting aspects concerning the notion of beauty were discussed, including the notion of the marketability of women's bodies, the idea of beauty as nationhood, the slow metamorphosis of beauty into product rather than desired asset. also discussed was whether the pursuit of beauty stopped women from moving ahead in other ways and whether the fact that beauty increasingly has to be packaged today also increasingly puts women into a package that it is difficult to escape from. Present at this discussion were Celia Winter-Irving, who gave the key address, Reyhana Masters and Tendayi Westerhoff as panellists, and Bella Matambanadzo as moderator. The second panel fielded Rudo Gaidzanwa as moderator, filmmaker Jackie Cahi as key speaker and Rumbi Katedza (filmmaker), Tsitsi Singizi (journalist), Garikai Chawasarira (TV show host) and Peter Moyo (journalist) as panellists.