In all of our events, we try to ensure the inclusion of gender perspectives. For starters, we push for a gender balance among the participants. We’re not always successful however, since the film, video and even documentary industry, as any industry in public domain, is still dominated by men.
Our approach to Camp Chindwin, our Southeast Asia Video Camp, was no different from any other events that we organized in the past. But this time, we worked harder for the presence of more women film/video makers from the region by giving more exposure of our online application to women. And it paid off. Many great film/video makers in the region applied, and as a result we achieved a balanced gender composition.
Gender balance is always a good start, but applying gender perspectives in the work is a must, so that the women feel really present and own the space. While it is very important to treat gender issues as intersecting ones, having specific spaces to talk about women’s rights are needed.
With the open space methodology that we used, I offered two sessions specifically on gender. One was about what it means to be women filmmakers and the other one was on how to make films where women victims of violence were subjects. Both were discussions and experience sharing sessions.
The first session on women filmmakers involved women from Myanmar, the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore. It struck me, yet didn’t really surprise me, that the experiences shared were very similar from one country to another. There was a slight different experience from the Philippines however, where the women’s movement has advanced more, compared to the other countries in the region.
The discussion was mostly around the experience of being women working in the film industry, whether as directors, camerapersons or editors. Most of the women shared how difficult it is to get film project opportunities compared to their male counterparts. We were trying to understand the reasons as to why the people running the industry believe more in the ability of men than women, especially when the films were about or to be shot in conflict zones. The latter always used the excuse of protecting women, while never attempting to investigate other factors that often times give an advantage to women in such situations.
The session also discussed how we, as women filmmakers, often have to work harder to prove ourselves and show that we are as qualified as men or even more. We came to discuss strategies on how we could work and be treated equally as men. We tried to find out what works, what doesn’t, and came to an agreement to build a network of women filmmakers in Southeast Asia to support one another and share opportunities that might rise in the future. A network that we are currently working to make a reality.