Women Making Films - Solidarity Through Cinema

Vaishnavi Sundar
Posted April 23, 2017 from India
Some of the members of WMF
Some of the members of WMF: www.wmfindia.com/members (1/2)

As a woman and a filmmaker, I continuously strive to overcome the hurdle of continued misogyny, not only in the world of film-making, but also in my own daily life. As a socially awkward, introverted person, I cannot take on the necessary challenge of confronting patriarchy alone. Fortunately, the best tool for voicing dissent and effecting change is collaboration, and I submitted myself entirely to bringing women together and building a community.

When a crisis knocked me down and out, I built a community

July 2015, my life was looking bleak at best! I had quit my job just two years before that and around the time; my personal life hit a big blow that required me to move houses, cut myself off from bothersome and prying people! I was, in the truest sense of the word, alone!

We only see the length and breadth of any feminist movement once we are able to enjoy the privileges after we defeat patriarchy. Around September 2015, when I had decided to pursue filmmaking full-time, I yearned for someone to build a community where women filmmakers can help each other, work with each other and most importantly, a community that is absolutely free! One could continue to be resentful about a non-existent support system, or create one instead, even if the privileges are going to be enjoyed by a girl 4 or 5 generations from now. So just like that, in my own living room, incredibly anticlimactically I gave birth to my own feminist movement - "Women Making Films."

WMF: the only interactive interface in India to shrink borders, unite through cinema

During September 2016, WMF celebrated its first anniversary and a noticeable amount of success. I published interviews with several filmmakers for the purpose of engaging our readers in thought about style, film, and genre. My aim with these interviews was to make female filmmakers’ names commonplace in conversation about cinema. In the film world we are quick to quote a Scorsese or a Mani Ratnam, but not a woman, save a few names like Bigelow and Sofia Coppola. Despite the fact that there are many groundbreaking female filmmaker pioneers, seldom do they come up in casual conversation; I decided to change this. Through WMF I have successfully established collaborative opportunities with other women groups/ feminist organizations etc to break barriers together. WMF has partnered with organizations from New York, Islamabad, Pennsylvania and California.

The little accomplishments that pave way for a relentless fight against patriarchy

Through WMF, I have managed to bring together more than 125 members who hail from 15 different countries, and within the existing members, more than 10 women have collaborated with each other. In this period I have also interviewed 20 phenomenal filmmakers from around the world, written over 15 essays questioning and appreciating all things cinema. With over 17 film screenings all over the world, it is with much excitement that I realize that I have screened films made by women for over a hundred times.

Now, a little less than two years after WMF was founded, I am so humbled by the journey I have been able to take with it, but I am also fully aware of how much more needs to be done to entirely wipe away gender disparity.

My contribution to “Herstory”

WMF’s social media approach dedicates itself to the forgotten artists of yesteryears, who are brought back to life through daily featured posts. These figures include cinematographers, producers, sound designers, screenplay writers, casting directors, music composers, animators, editors, stunt women, makeup artists, and gaffers. There are no photographs of many of these individuals but I see it as my duty to bring them to light anyhow. As a new year round up, I wrote about “Twenty Badass Women In Cinema You Have Probably Never Heard Of,” which included filmmakers from as far back as 1875 and hailing from Australia, Mexico, Senegal, Japan, Korea, Europe, throughout the Middle East, and more.

My own films that are feminist in nature and addresses social issues

Apart from the time that I relentlessly invest in building the community, I also ensure I use the power of visual medium to tell stories to the world. My documentaries and fiction films provide a feminist insight into the daily lives of people from all walks of life.

I also use my films to question and call out social issues vehemently. But issues in progressive filmmaking do not stop, not even after the film has been screened. It’s like every step has got its own different pack of obstacles that comes along with it. The plight of independent filmmaking starts right from laying out the plot- whether or not it is going to be accepted or even perceived by the minimal of an audience. When I am writing a script, I make sure I do not conform to any sort of societal generalization for the sake of selling it out to the masses. I just can’t. The world has had enough of it, and filmmakers with a rational mindset are sparse, so we have to face a whole other set of hurdles.There are always mobs ready to lynch you out for different reasons. While one mob is ready to besiege you for making a film on homosexuality, other encircles you for making one on the irrationality of the Indian mindset. Not to mention the added aggravation when you’re a woman. I think a major part of my entire work speaks of the persecution faced by female filmmakers, as well as those belonging to the other minorities.

It has been difficult, but I am not giving up

As the sole staff member of Women Making Films, it consumes me. I have carved out a difficult path for myself as an independent filmmaker and an activist working against the harmful forces of bigotry and sexism. At times, I want to just call it all off and return to my shell. But I keep going for just one simple reason: I have promised an unborn girl child that I will work toward a fair playing field. To make good on this promise, I am willing to put up with the everyday bitterness and occasional breakdowns that are simply a part of this work.

How to Get Involved

If you are a filmmaker, you can sign up and become a member of the fastest growing global network of filmmakers here.

This story was submitted in response to Art for Action.

Comments 6

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Jill Langhus
Apr 24, 2017
Apr 24, 2017

Hi Vaishnavi. Thanks for your update. Please don't give up. What you are doing is so powerful and important. We, collectively, so desperately need an honest, female perspective in the media.I will share this post on my social media as well, to spread the word.

Vaishnavi Sundar
May 19, 2017
May 19, 2017

Thank you for being such a stellar support, J :)

Jill Langhus
May 20, 2017
May 20, 2017

You're welcome:) I hope you are doing and feeling better...

Francisca Robles
Apr 25, 2017
Apr 25, 2017

Good job! Keep on going. I will share your network in my social medias. My brother and his girlfriend are independant filmmakers, they work making music documentaries (punk music, protester singers, women rock bands). I know that is not easy to work social issues in movies and that is why your movement is so important!

Vaishnavi Sundar
May 19, 2017
May 19, 2017

Thank you so very much, it means a lot :)

Carolyn Seaman
Jun 18, 2017
Jun 18, 2017

Hello Vaishnavi,

I am beyond words, reading your story. And I can relate to a lot of the experiences you have shared in your story. The film industry also has various dynamics in my country and I am also passionate about telling girls' and women's stories.

And it's funny how we have to pursue our passions amidst various challenges. But, we keep going Sister because we know that we are making a difference everyday and we will continue making films that advance women's and girls' issues around the world.

I am happy to register as a member of your platform and together, I am convinced that we would inspire global change through our films.

In partnership,

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