Egypt’s Aswan Women Film Festival: Blending Creativity With Women’s Activism

Egypt’s Aswan Women Film Festival: Blending Creativity With Women’s Activism

Nut Forum for Women’s Issues at the Aswan International Women Film Festival

Set at the charming and richly cultural city of Aswan, Egyptian and foreign filmmakers and artists, as well as women’s activists, gathered at the fourth edition of the Aswan International Women Film Festival (AIWFF).

The festival kicked off on Monday and will continue until Saturday, February 15, under the auspices of the Egyptian Ministry of Culture, sponsored by the Egyptian National Council for Women and co-funded by the European Union (EU).

More than 50 films from 30 states are featured, including two international premiers and three Oscar-nominated films, one of which is the Syrian documentary “the Cave,”, to highlight the importance of advocating women’s issues through filmmaking.

The opening ceremony honored Spanish award-winning actress and singer Victoria Abril, the guest of honor of AIWFF 2020.

The annual event also honored Egyptian actresses Nelly Karim and Ragaa El-Giddawy, and paid tribute to iconic actresses Nadia Lotfi and Magda Al-Sabahi, both of whom passed away this year.

Spanish actress Victoria Abril attends the opening ceremony of the Aswan International Women Film Festival in Aswan, Egypt, on Feb. 10, 2020. (Xinhua/Ahmed Gomaa)

On the sidelines, the festival also organizes several workshops and seminars for both women and men to encourage more female film directors to enter the industry and produce films that tackle women’s issues.

فاعليات ورش مهرجان أسوان – النسخة الرابعة ٢٠٢٠

إنطلاق فاعليات ورش مهرجان اسوان الدولى لأفلام المرأة .بمشاركة اكثر من ٢٠٠ متدرب فى سبع ورش فنية من قصر ثقافة اسوان وتحت شعار "اصوات سينمائية من الجنوب" تستمر فاعليات البرنامج من تدريب ومشاهدات ونقاشات يوميا بقصر الثقافة من الساعة ١١ صباحاً وحتى ٥ مساءً.

Posted by ‎مهرجان أسوان لأفلام المرأة – Aswan international Women film Festival‎ on Thursday, 6 February 2020


Dr. Azza Kamel at the Nut Forum.

Among these seminars was the ‘Nut Forum for Women’s Issues’, headed by Dr. Azza Kamel, vice chairwoman of the festival’s board of trustees.

The forum included the participation of Nehad Aboul Komsan, senior lawyer and chairwoman of the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights, Suhair Farraj, general director of TAM foundation (Women, Media and Development) in Palestine, Amna Al-Helwa, director of the Karama Organization in Jordan, Amal Al-Basha, chairwoman of the Sisters’ Arab Forum for Human Rights (SAF), and Marie Therese El Mir, chairwoman of the Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering.

“The aim of this forum is two things: to bring more awareness to women’s issues, and to analyse the challenges facing women, and how it is reflected in the cinema,” Nehad Aboul Komsan told Egyptian Streets.

The forum shed light on the issue of child marriage, which is still very much practiced and affects the lives of many girls in Egypt. According to a 2018 report by CAPMAS, 117000 children under the age of 18 in Egypt are or have been married.

“There are some who argue and say, ‘the girl accepted the decision’. We do not entrust responsibility to youth to vote until the age of 18, and in other countries until the age of 21, so how is it that we entrust responsibility to young girls, who have yet not reached full maturity, to manage an entire household and family?” Nehad Aboul Komsan highlighted during the forum.

“We do not even provide driving licenses for young girls (and boys) because we are afraid that this would endanger their lives, and yet we marry them off, which deprives them from education and opportunities for a decent life,” Aboul Komsan added.

Nehad Aboul Komsan speaking at the Nut Forum.

The forum also discussed the legal concerns such as the status of child marriage which is not criminalized in Egypt. Though the Child Law raised the minimum age of marriage to 18 years for females, early marriage is reportedly common as the Maazoun (legally authorized person to register marriage) is allowed to marry off the girls through urfi (customary) marriage and legally register it until she reaches the age of 18.

“The problem is that legislators do not take into account as to how the law would be enforced and what are the contradictions that may exist. As a result, the legislation is weak and enforcement is poor,” Aboul Komsan noted.

The Aswan International Women Film Festival is the first women’s film festival in Egypt, the first international festival held in Upper Egypt, and the first Egyptian film festival that specializes in workshops for youth in Aswan.

“The training workshops help to fertile the social soil in Aswan -year after year – for the flowering and blooming of new tree leaves,” as stated in the festival’s website.

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Mirna Abdulaal is a writer, researcher and aspiring public/political communication specialist interested in women's rights, cultural heritage and fashion, and political communication.

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