Wench Film Festival 2022 To Showcase Women Breaking Ground In Horror Genre

Sapna Bhavnani, who has helmed and curated the Wench Film Festival 2022, opens up in an interview about the need for greater female representation in horror.

Tanvi Akhauri
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wench film festival 2022
Wench Film Festival 2022: Women-made horror films are bringing about a new wave of storytelling across global film industries. For far too long, the genre was dominated by men, which would probably explain why the most vicious of supernatural spectres are modelled after women, often force-fitted into prototypes. But with women reclaiming their space in the horror market, the lens of their filmmaking is changing perspectives.

While more and more women creators take the stage in Western fora, there is a dearth of representation of women making horror in India.

To bolster greater gender diversity in this arena, Sapna Bhavnani, writer, hairstylist, entrepreneur and creative all-rounder, has taken lead with the Wench Film Festival, which is set to inaugurate its second year this month.

Starting March 4, the one-of-a-kind festival that will be conducted upon a hybrid virtual-physical model, showcasing an exceptional curation of 50 sci-fi, fantasy and horror films, a majority of which are helmed by women. The festival prides itself on being inclusive of BIWOC, LGBTQ+ and non-binary filmmakers as well.

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Talking to SheThePeopleBhavnani explains how the idea of a film festival dedicated to the female gaze germinated.

"Last year I wrote a horror story and I submitted it to the Korean film market where it was picked. I happened to become the first Indian woman director to ever be in that market - it's a really big market. Every person was happy to see an Indian woman in the international horror market. I decided I would bring an opportunity to promote women writing horror, sci-fi and fantasy."

"There's no festival in India for these genre films. There are barely any women doing these kinds of films. Worldwide it's become a big phenomenon. The hashtag earlier was the future of film is female, now it's the future of horror is female."

"Worldwide, horror has taken over in a big way. In India, it hasn't yet, but it's starting to."

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'Wench', honoured in Bhavnani's film festival title, as a word has a long and conflicted history.

In classic English literature, it was used to describe a feminine, delicate, young servant girl. But its connotations were not all that innocent. 'Wench' typically carried sexually charged meanings, attributing characteristics related to promiscuity or prostitution to the woman it was used to define.

It was one of many derogatory labels slapped onto women to slot them into categories the male gaze could lust after. Not much has changed on the latter end, since women are still classified as 'sluts' and '&t=1s">gold-diggers' and whatnot, but women are reclaiming and redefining these labels. They are taking control of the narrative.

"In horror films made by men, the ghosts are mainly all women - chudails and bhoots. Except when there's a cool vampire that's male. So with a woman making horror films, the characters are definitely going to be more layered," Bhavnani says.


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The opening film for the festival this year is the 1980 horror Gehrayee, directed by Vikas Desai and Aruna Raje.

A path-breaking film that took on several subjects considered taboo back in the day, Gehrayee belonged to the parallel cinema family and broke the mould of B-grade horror that mainstream Hindi films were pursuing on the heels of the Ramsay Brothers brand of filmmaking.

Some other titles that will be screened at the festival include Arati Kadav's Time Machine, Shoshana Rosenbaum's Night Waking, Akriti Singh's Toofan Mail and Diane Lindo's It Feels Great, to name a few.

Bhavnani's own film Mera Kutta Bimaar Hai is being screened but not participating to win.

The jury includes notables like producer Todd Brown, screenwriter Isha Luthra (of Ghost Stories fame), film critic Stutee Ghosh and Kaali Khuhi director Terrie Samundra.

Pictured: Still from Gehrayee 

sapna bhavnani wench film festival women making horror