BEST PRACTICES OF THE ACPCULTURES+ PROGRAMME: The International Images Film Festival for Women (IIFF)

The International Images Film Festival for Women (IIFF) is the flagship event of Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe (WFOZ). IIFF is a unique festival, the only one of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. The festival promotes the participation of women, with that special female perspective, in all spheres of life.  IIFF brings the feminine out of the home and into the nation, so that the benefits of women's ways of doing things benefit not only the small nuclear family or the extended family, but the entire Zimbabwean community. The festival promotes the “dissemination of positive peaceful and tolerant values and ways ofdoing things into the entire Zimbabwean patriarchal nation”. The programme is very diverse with a total of 58 films from 32 countries in 2016. In the 2 editions financed by the ACPCultures+ Programme (2015 and 2016), more than 32,000 people have been reached throughout the project

The festival brought together festival lovers, film enthusiasts, the diplomatic community, activists,  development practitioners, journalists, student and academics who gathered to watch films that celebrated women of heart and others that portrayed men as positive role models dedicating their lives to ensure women stay alive.

The overall objective of IIFF is to coordinate and implement a festival of international standard that fosters engagement and debate amongst the audience films featuring as much as possible a female protagonist that promote gender sensitivity in particular and other democratic tolerances such as but not limited to political party and sexual preference tolerance, and also films that encourage positive role modelling in the target populations, with a balance between Southern and European narratives. “We want to promote societal and local film industry engagement with these issues while at the same time increasing production standards and income generation from the industry for industry players, with a focus on women.An effort has also been made to appeal to male audiences”, explains Laura Ganda, the festival director.

“As IIFF, we have realised that the festival has power to move audiences from passive viewers to agents of change. The films at IIFF function as advocacy tools and the basis of discussion about real issues both within communities and with power-holders who have the ability to address the problems examined.  Films like BLACK, MARGAHARITA WITH A STRAW, DIFRET and PARADISE SUITE deal with those difficult issues that are usually swept under the carpet. After watching the films audiences ask if they can get copies of the film. We have interpreted this to mean that compelling narratives, audiences want to engage further with the stories, want to share them with their communities” she continues.

“Thanks to the ACPCultures+ support, we have been able to improve dramatically the quality of IIFF films and our network”, comments Ganda.  “IIFF has managed to bring to audiences films that have performed well at international festivals all over the world. This is a result of visits to major festivals. Films in Digital Cinema print format which have the best technical quality have become a common feature at IIFF”, she explains.

Local films with a local appeal

“IIFF is working on boosting entry of local productions so that our rural communities engage better with local productions from the region”, says Laura Ganda. “Local films have the advantage of the local languages hence for serious issues, audiences can easily follow”. This effort was hampered by the low quality of film productions coming out. WFOZ and its sister organisation addressed this issue and, thanks to the support of ACPCultures+, developed a specific training programmes to answer the needs of the local industry. These programmes emphasize the training and participation of women as women continue to be marginalised in local productions especially in key crew roles.

Future plans for IIFF

Thanks to an expanded network of financial and technical partners and better quality films, the festival is stronger and more sustainable. The festival organised a new edition in 2017, without the ACPCultures+ contribution. The new partnerships established will contribute to the sustainability of the festival. “Fundraising for the festival and all outreaches is in progress”, comments Ganda.

Film screenings in the schools

An important activity realised thanks to the ACPCultures+ contribution has been the organisation of screenings in several schools across the country.  The films screened focused on child sexual abuse, gender based violence and HIV. These screenings had an important impact to raise awareness among the youngsters and adults. After the screening of Peretera Maneta at Chikore High School, for example, it came to light that there was a serious problem of sexual harassment at the school. The film prompted boys to break down windows in the school block area and this resulted in the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) handling the matter. Investigations have revealed that the protest was against the teacher alleged to be the perpetrator of the sexual harassment. IIFF then informed child protection organisation, Childline and the Zimbabwe Women's Lawyers Association (ZWLA) about this incident. The Childline Office in Chipinge has since followed up the case and the alleged teacher was charged together with another teacher who was his accomplice. This incident not only exposed the sexual abuse at the school but also the flawed system within Ministry of Education. Instead of reporting cases to the police the authority sometimes investigates the allegations and the accused remains at work. There are no mechanisms to protect the survivor from the perpetrator until investigations have been finalised. If a teacher is found guilty, a teacher he may be disciplined by being transferred to another school, this does not stop the cycle of abuse.

Film screenings in the communities

“With the support of ACPCultures+, we have been able to extend our organisation and maximise our promotion. In 2016, we have doubled the number of films received compared to 2015”, recalls Ganda. “But we are very proud of another novelty that we implemented thanks to the support. Since 2015, we bring the festival in the countryside. In several villages, we are presenting films that promote women development and positive relations all over Zimbabwe. The films are presented at venues where locals come to watch and give feedback. Through the films, we want to create peaceful family and community co-existence and national unity. For me, domestic violence is one of the major problems that women face in our society. Films aim to promote national healing and unity”, comments the festival director. “Whilst audiences appreciated the films that highlighted the effects and impact of GBV in communities, they challenged Women Film-makers to screen more films on men who are positive role models so that men can learn how to behave, and how not to perpetrate violence. Despite long distances, villagers turned out in their large numbers to watch the films under moonlight and after each screening, they engaged in discussions on how they, as communities can end violence in their communities.

“The impact of IIFF films has come alive during screenings where men begin to interrogate each other about their behaviour towards women. This shows that IIFF narratives have an influence on behaviour. It is my great joy that national policies are now recognizing the importance of such narratives in national development. We have many examples of heartrending story exploring sensitive cultural practices and indomitable patriarchal systems that obstructs women’s sexual expression and belittles their social standing in relation to their male counterparts. Film has the great advantage that they made laugh and cry. Furthermore, they offers very interesting insights into some traditions we did not even know existed; for example, women ‘walking’ on their knees each time they enter a room of men, regardless of the woman’s age or status”, concludes Ganda.


Read more best practices HERE.

October 17, 2017
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