Does ‘Inclusive’ Mean 30% Women Or Less? The 19th JIO MAMI Mumbai Festival Thinks So!

The most awaited film festival of the country exalted for its glitz and networking opportunities, as well as the International lineup, Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival with Star is on its 19th edition this year. JIO MAMI festival, for all its claim to be ‘inclusive’ has a lesson or two to learn from International festivals that have put inclusion and gender equality at the forefront; both by having films made by women and other minorities, as well as addressing the elephant in the room about wage gap, opportunities, rampant misogyny etc.

This year, like most of its past editions, has many familiar faces in the long list of trustees, with Anupama Chopra as the festival director, a bunch of young, enterprising women in leadership positions, a good mix of experienced filmmakers, curators and the who’s whos of film critique fraternity like Bharadwaj Rangan, Rashid Irani etc. are on the list too.

Be that as it may, the number of women-directed films in the entire festival across categories amount to a meagre 28% – certainly a skewed figure, if not a worrying one. A total of 105 films are being programmed in this edition (based on their website), of which only 30 films are made by women (5 of them are co-directed with men)

Representation and inclusion are not just terms that get thrown around to sound ‘cool’ or gimmick the west anymore. Take the recently concluded Toronto International Film Festival that had 50% women made films in its program – this means, if one truly believes in inclusion, such a standard is not just achievable but is the way forward for global festivals. With some vocal proponents of wanting to have more women behind the camera, in the festival team, let’s hope the 20th edition is better – this year, however, is a far cry from what it claims to be: “inclusive.”

A total of 105 films are being programmed in this edition, of which only 30 films are made by women (5 of them are co-directed with men)

The following are the breakup of films made by women in each of the advertised categories:

WMF Highlight: Check out the interview of Anushka Meenakshi | And here, an interview of Rima Das.

 

In the International competition section, you must absolutely try and catch, ‘I am not a witch’ from a debutante director, Rungano Nyoni – her film has created quite a stir at the Cannes this year. Thankfully, the International competition has 50% representation and that is a heartening thing – however, it doesn’t hurt to have this pattern across categories too.

There are some niche categories that truly add the ‘Mumbai’ spice to the mix – 17 films that show Mumbai at its best and worst just as well, unfortunately, there are only 3 films that have a female co-director.

WMF Highlight: Check out the interview of Bornila Chatterjee.

While the International competition saw an equal number of films by men and women, the general world cinema category, however, left a lot to be desired. There are only 14 films out of a whopping 44 – it is a sad figure considering how there has been an upsurge of many wonderful films from around the world, made by women. A simple google search would reveal some of the top-grossing ones, and a nuanced search would unearth gems. Thanks to organisations like Women and Hollywood, Women In Film, Woman Make Movies, there is no dearth of information about women making films globally. Perhaps it would be a good practice to collaborate with organisations like WMF, IAWRT, WICC and such to congregate and curate films made by women, vehemently. Check out the interview of Sarita and Smriti of ‘A suitable girl’ that won big in Tribeca this year.

In conclusion:

It would be unfair to be cynical about JIO MAMI Mumbai Festival in its entirety because the films that have managed to make the cut are not films that you can access that very easily. Wajib for example, that just concluded its Toronto screening is a treasure in itself – to be able to watch it at the comfort of a nearby theatre is a privilege. Sally Potter’s ‘The Party’ or ‘What will people say?’ by Iram Haq are films one must watch and rewatch – so kudos to the festival team to have picked the crème de la crème of world cinema. There are also some films that have been produced by women: ‘Ralang Road‘ for example, is produced by WMF’s latest member, Heer Ganjwala. Another gem of a film that was made by a collective, which I had the good fortune of watching and talking at length about TURUP.

In the past, there have been instances where world-renowned film festivals have been pathbreakers in aiding female filmmakers to shatter the glass ceiling – take Busan for example. ScreenDaily confirms that Shin Suwon’s “Glass Garden” will kick off the fest October 15, while Sylvia Chang’s “Love Education” will conclude the nearly 300-film event. This is the first time in BIFF’s history that women-directed films have bookended the festival. Here in Mumbai though, it is another year of Anurag Kashyap of course. One might claim that there are numerous all woman film festivals across the globe, leave the main ones out – well, for the sake of working towards the one claim the festival has, having many films made by women is the only way forward – unless the word actually means including, well, MORE MEN!