The 11th edition of the International Images Film Festival for Women officially opened at the Rainbow City cinema in Harare last Friday with the screening of a Japanese film "The Stars Converge". Running under the theme "Women Alive", the festival runs in the capital from November 23-December 1, after which it moves to Bulawayo (December 5-6) and Binga (December 4-6).
The guest of honour, Auma Obama -- a half sister to newly re-elected United States President Barack Obama -- spoke on the need to celebrate women who have made it in life in the face of adversities such as gender discrimination and domestic violence.
Auma's own story is captured in one of Kenya's entries to the festival, "Education of Auma Obama" in which Welsh-Nigerian-German filmmaker Branwen Okpako explores how Kenya's young people like Auma successfully negotiated their roles as temporary immigrants and preserved their sense of belonging to their own cultures and peoples.
A total of 80 film will be screened during festival at the Rainbow City Cinema along Robert Mugabe Road, Alliance Francaise, the Book Café and Christian College of Southern Africa.
In line with the festival's theme, focus will be on documentaries, feature and short films showing how women manage to stay alive in the home, workplace and the world at large.
The host country will offer an outstanding line-up of films such as "I Will Marry Myself", "The In-Laws", "Kuyambuka/Crossing Borders", "Makomborero (Blessings)", "Meso Meso (Seduced)" "Mpiyabo (The War)", "Rural Women", "Stigma", "We Have Feelings Too", "Zimbabwe Women Writers -- Digital Stories", "Maidei Meets Europe" and "Engagement Party in Harare", the last two in collaboration with UK producers.
Binga audiences can look forward to "I Want A Wedding Dress/Ndiyanda Dilesi Yamuchado", "Sharing Day/Zuva Lyakwabana", "From Zimbabwe to Santa Fe/Kuzwa KuZimbabwe Katuya Ku Sante Fe" and "Zimbabwe".
Speaking at the same occasion, IIFF director Yvonne Jila echoed Mama Obama's sentiments saying the two-week-long festival celebrates the lives of women who have not only defied the odds but successfully challenged stereotypes of what the ideal woman should be.
She cited Malawi President Joyce Banda, Liberian President Sirleaf Johnson and African Commission chair Nkosana Dlamini-Zuma.
Jila also paid tribute to CCOSA, Harare Polytechnic and the University of Zimbabwe for welcoming the IIFF Outreach initiative and to IIFF founder and acclaimed filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga, "whose vision we are carrying forward".
New categories at IIFF 2012 include the New Man and the New Man and Shasha/Ingctshi/Zim Experts (SIZE), one of whose highlights is "I Will Marry Myself".
Produced by Darlington Manhiva and directed by Stephen Vesser, this 30-minute film is a fascinating story about an African woman who is fed up with being taken for granted by men that she decides to take the matter into her own hands.
This year's screenings will be backed up by panel discussions and workshops such as the "Zim Doc", "Breaking the Silence" and the "Documentary Filmmaking" where audiences will network with acclaimed filmmakers and guests from Britain, Canada, Germany, Kenya and Spain.
Japanese Ambassador to Zimbabwe His Excellency Yonezo Fukuda also graced the official opening which attracted a capacity crowd.
Japan will showcase three films -- "Hotel Hibiscus", "Linda, Linda, Linda" and "The Stars Converge", which kicked off this year's festival.