By Bobby Tiwana, curator of WOMAN at GemArts Masala Festival
STILL FROM ‘WAR-IA’
This year’s shorts programme is inspired by the political act of being a woman. Yes, something as simple and ordinary as that is a type of activism, seen as a provocation or license to oppress in many contexts, ages, social class, across cultures and geographies. In so many parts of the world, including very close to home, girls and women have to try every day not to be coerced, exploited, abused, raped or murdered. Why is that so? And aren’t we all complicit in the silence, therefore sustaining the status quo? I don’t understand why there is such little enthusiasm today to describe yourself as a feminist. I understand it to mean that all genders are equal and should be treated equally in law, life and love.
Growing up in a household of women, a mother and two older sisters, and a father mostly at work, women’s voices, presence and their value was something inherent in my upbringing. Women have always featured strongly in my life: at school, college and university. I became an uncle to my first niece when I was just 23 years old who’s just been helping me organise my wedding. And my mother’s now a large presence in my life as she ages.
As a gay Asian man, I’ve experienced homophobia and racism, nothing extraordinary, probably ordinarily average. However, not belonging to the straight club in a patriarchal world has also enabled me to enter spaces not ordinarily available to straight men. Perhaps due to a greater shared empathy with my sisters due to our respective fights to survive.
How can a cisgender man curate a programme about women: because I’m a feminist, because I think there are stories to be told and conversations to be had.
WOMAN comprises five film shorts including narrative fiction, documentary and artists film/video/spoken word.
STILL FROM ‘THE FIELD’
See the trailer for ‘THE FIELD’
We open with THE FIELD, a multi-award nominee (BAFTA/BFI London Film Festival and British Independent Film Award 2018) and Shorts Cut Award Winner (Toronto International Film Festival) by writer-director Sandhya Suri. This is a beautifully crafted short set in rural Punjab in India. We follow the life of an agricultural worker who leads a double life.
STILL FROM ‘CLENCH’
See the trailer for ‘CLENCH’
CLENCH by award winning film director and visual artist Riffy Ahmed tells the story of Ash, a dual heritage girl from Old Trafford who ends up on the wrong side of the law, resulting in her boxing at Salford Lads’ Club. The film echoes the fractured nature of today’s identity politics among the young and old.
STILL FROM ‘QANDEEL’
Commissioned by the Guardian and Bertha Foundation, Saad Khan’s documentary QANDEEL examines the life, death and impact of Pakistan’s working-class icon Qandeel Baloch, killed in 2016 after becoming a social media celebrity. This compelling film analyses her life through the lens of class and power politics and connects it to women’s continuing struggle for self-expression and agency in Pakistan.
STILL FROM ‘WE ARE FIRE’
WE ARE FIRE is a short film about Champa Pal’s resistance with the support of ‘The Gulabi Gang’ to an entrenched cultural system in Uttar Pradesh designed to give men the upper hand. The film is directed by Oscar and Emmy award-winning director Orlando von Einsiedel.
STILL FROM ‘WAR-IA’
WAR-IA embraces her true nature to draw upon the wisdom of all the mothers who came before, and those to come, unleashing her indomitable spirit. The video is inspired by the inner thoughts of Black and Asian women. It uses their voices and experiences, from the real to the imagined. A range of states – innocence, objectification, self-doubt, rage, playfulness and survival – are depicted in the work. Written and directed by Bobby Tiwana.
The films will be followed by a post-screen discussion with filmmakers Sandhya Suri and Riffy Ahmed facilitated by me, Bobby Tiwana.
WOMAN, FRI 19 JUL, 7pm, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, South Shore Road, Gateshead NE8 3BA
Tickets £5 Buy here
Ticket includes welcome drink