Illustration: The first International Women’s Film Festival in Afghanistan. (Photo: Ghayor Waziri)

Illustration: The first International Women’s Film Festival in Afghanistan. (Photo: Ghayor Waziri)

This year marks the third time the International Women’s Film Festival has been held in Afghanistan. 

Filmmakers from America, Italy and many more countries traveled to Herat province for the event.

The main message of the festival, reports Ghayor Waziri, was combating violence against women and encouraging young Afghan women filmmakers to speak out.

Today in the ancient citadel of Herat province, in the country’s southwest, hundreds of people have gathered to attend the International Women’s Film Festival.

More than 60 local and international films are being screened – selected for how they reflect the conditions of women around the world. 

Two Afghan organizations Armanshahr and Roya Film House founded the event three years ago.

Roya Sadat, director of the Roya Film organization, says the festival is growing, even if slowly.

“It is very difficult to say if we have reached the target, but it is a good step to open a dialogue with our film producers in society, to defend women and human rights,” she says, “Without a doubt it has an affect, for example, this year more young filmmakers who produced films on the situation of women have been nominated to screen their films at the festival.”

After the opening ceremony, a number of films were screened and famous Afghan singer and UN Ambassador for Peace, Farhad Darya, also performed several songs.

Farhad Darya says the festival is helping to encourage young women in Afghanistan.

“I think festivals won’t bring a miracle, but they can create hope and push people to do more in a better way,’ he says.

Due to security concerns, the festival has been held in three different places each day but hundreds still turned up to watch.

After the films are screened, there are discussion panels with well-known individuals such as representatives from the United Nations and women’s rights activists.

Activist Soweta Doorani says that many of the discussions have been about combating violence against women in Afghanistan.

“These kinds of festivals are very efficient, it shows the power of women and pushes them to work harder for their rights to be recognized, and to kick problems farther away,” says Doorani, “Festivals like this show that women have talent, and they can do what they want.”

The festival is supported by the governor of Herat and the International Federation for Human Rights, as well as several others international bodies. 

At the end of the third day, high-ranking officials and movie celebrities have gathered to present the awards. 

One local film, called Moon, about the story of young girl who was forced to become a child bride, was one of those awarded.

Afghanistan’s Lena Alam, who played the mother in the film, won best actress. 

“One thing that is very wonderful for me and maybe for all of us is, in our country where fighting continues in Kundoz and suicide attacks are taking place in other parts, we are still alive,” explains Alam, “When I saw people, including their family members who came to the festival to watch the films, in a province that doesn’t have a cinema, it was a big message of achievement for me.”

Afghanistan’s first lady, Rola Ghani, also visited the festival in a video message.

The International Women’s Film Festival, she said, “has taken the initiative to overshadow violence and war by means of art.”

Festival founder Roya Sadat says she can only help the festival inspires women to fight for their rights.

“Women are suffering in different parts of the world, even in those countries that claim they have a good situation for women… We had films that reflect women’s problems in India and also some other countries,” says Sadat, “I hope these kind of attempts bring unity among women and raise the voice to fight for women’s rights.”

 

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