This was the third time I was attending the Contest Finale, and Award Ceremony for Women’s Safety & Empowerment Short film contest held every year in Mumbai.

Organized by U.S. Consulate General in Mumbai, to mark the UN “16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence” global campaign to promote women’s safety and empowerment. This was the 5th year.

Women's Safety & Empowerment Short film contest organised by U.S. Consulate General Mumbai
Women’s Safety & Empowerment Short film contest organised by U.S. Consulate General Mumbai

Every time I visit, I have left with heart touching visuals, which always reminded me about someone I know — a woman who had to struggle, hard in-between men, to show her presence, to show the world that she too can.

This time, I decided to surprise my wife. And I got both of us registered for this Finale. She kept me asking all the way, about this program, and I told her nothing.

As we entered the venue (Novotel hotel, Juhu), I was pleased to see an old acquaintance Mr. Jayesh Dadlani (From U.S. Consulate in Mumbai), we exchanged greetings, and there we were reading the brief text about all the ten videos to be screened that day. My Wife smiled, and she deep dived reading all of them.

I wandered around taking some pictures here and there, and soon I saw Mr. Edgard D. Kagan, the Consul General of Mumbai Consulate (U.S.). I loved his speech that day.

This gentleman assumed the post as Consul General on August 1, 2017. He is responsible for representing American interests and promoting U.S.-India relations in the Indian states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh.

We took our seats close to the screen and waited for the screening to get started.

This year there were 46 submissions received by the Consulate, and ten videos were selected for screening at this Contest Finale and Award Ceremony held on December 7, 2018. This program was in partnership with WIFT India and New York Film Academy.

Few short speeches by Consul General, the jury members Tisca Chopra, director Mahesh Mathai, screenwriter Anjum Rajabali, Petrina D’Rozario, and Suniti Ghoshal from the New York Film Academy, and the screening started.

An Independence Day – A perfectly shot, professionally made I must say. This short film was completely different from all others, it spoke more of a Mumbai scenario, more of a positive side, more of a something which is already achieved, wherein Women are already enjoying great freedom in our city, almost fearless walking on the streets in the middle of the night, returning from work or leisure. This short film is a mirror of Mumbai.

Betiyaan – Pride or Burden – The best part of this short film is all the actors & Actresses are students studying in 9th class and have beautifully played their character. The message was passed correctly with a little bit of humor in it.

Cancel Complicity – A typical scenario wherein women express something, and men taking advantage of it to convey something hidden in the answer/reply and then waiting for a response. Well, every woman has a natural ring bell, which starts ringing the moment a male is up to something on her. Gone are the days when women used the reverse gear because of the peer pressure, today they use top gear. I like this short film.

I Have A Dream – This short film is not a reflection of just half-educated, but literate too. Even though you are highly educated, men have a habit of pointing out the smallest mistake they could find, somehow they forget the achieved part of that woman, which was full of struggle. How hard it was to reach there. Watching this short film my eyes got wet.

#MeToo – One scene short film portrays about a walk of men and a women with a twisted truth. The message is strong, but the picturization could have been better. I was confused about why a woman would want to enter that door.

Nirbhaya Mai Asifa Mai – A silent short film but very expressive, something which is visible, but we cannot see or maybe don’t want to see. Such things get suppressed and get hidden. They don’t come out easily. If we start looking at everyone from this angle, our perspective can change, and changes can come to our society. We don’t understand unless we put our feet in their shoes.

Acid Attack – This is my favorite one, very well scripted, and excellently picturized. Creating good suspense, in such a short period. The locations were just perfect. I love the message at the end “ACID IS USED TO CLEAN DIRTY PLACES, NOT TO DESTROY BEAUTIFUL PLACES.”

It’s Our City Too – An outstanding initiative of creating women space in public places, which is usually occupied by men like playgrounds and street libraries for reading newspapers. Well, the place where I stay is precisely opposite to public ground, and I see women team of Baseball (yes you read it right, its baseball), cricket team, football team, and most interestingly I see a Lagori team every morning from 6 to 8 am.

Don’t Shrug It Off – This short film tells three short stories. I like the scenarios and the dialogues. Everybody likes women empowerment, but nobody likes powerful women. This short film gives this direct message to the audience. I love this short film.

Udyamita – Real stories of 3 women, picturized by the real characters themselves. I was speechless when I saw this short film. All three women were sitting adjacent to my wife. When I told her the women is sitting next to you, my wife was stunned. You know the feeling.

All in all, I liked the Documentary format opted by all the movie makers, having minimal resources. Most of them were shot on smartphones.

The Interesting part is to see how and what people came up with when they were given just one topic. Every movie was a reflection of society. Of course, differing from city to city.

Winner – Don’t Shrug It Off
2nd Prize – An Independence Day
3rd Prize – It’s Our City Too
People’s choice award – Acid Attack

Short film because they are short, has to be very precise, and here they all have done great work. I congratulate them all, and I am very thankful to U.S. Consulate General, Mumbai for organizing such contest to create awareness.

Also read on 16mm Film Festival focused on promoting 16mm Films in Mumbai, organized and curated by Harkat Studios.

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind this review is composed of solely my own opinions and should be taken with a grain of salt. This is for informative entertainment purpose only, representing my personal views. I do not own the images used in the review. No copyright infringement intended.