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What to watch at this year's China Women's Film Festival

China's only film festival dedicated to female empowerment returns

Returning for its sixth year this week, the China Women's Film Festival aims to shine a light on the myriad of struggles, injustices and triumphs women, as well as LGBTQI communities, encounter all over the globe. Over 30 films from 15 different countries are featured in this year's international programme (details of Chinese films have yet to be confirmed) which will be screened alongside panels, forums and discussions with filmmakers and experts in the industry. This year's festival will take place at various venues around the capital from September 14 to 23; for screening times and locations, visit the official China Women's Film Festival website.

Grab and Run (2017)

grab and run

Since gaining its independence in 1991, Kyrgyzstan has seen the revival of ala-kachuu, a practice which, though initially outlawed during the Soviet era, still remains widely accepted. Roughly translating to 'grab and run', ala-kachuu involves the kidnapping of women who are then forcibly married to the very men who captured them – a practice now so common that it's estimated over half the marriages in Kyrgyzstan are the result of illegal kidnapping. While men are afforded the benefits of proving their 'manliness' and not having to pay a dowry to the bride's family, the vast majority of women are forced to remain in unwanted marriages due to stigma. An in-depth exploration of the complex cultural norms at work in Kyrgyzstan, Grab and Run presents a harrowing look at an ancient tradition that treats women as possessions.

Anchor and Hope (2017)

anchor and hope

Anchor and Hope tells the tale of Kat and Eva, a Spanish couple who live on a cramped boat in London with their sperm donor, and best friend, Roger. Eschewing the common formulas of traditional rom-coms, this ambitious film bucks the trend with a modern, open-minded tale that champions unorthodox lifestyle arrangements and relationships, whether it's due to choice or economic necessity.

Sami Blood (2016)

sami blood

Winner of Best Actress, Best Editing and Best Screenplay at the Guldbagge Awards, acclaimed coming-of-age film Sami Blood follows indigenous Sámi teenager Elle Marja as she confronts brutal prejudice and deep-seated racism in 1930s Sweden. Exposed to degrading theories of race biology and traumatic physical examinations at a draconian boarding school, Elle Marja dreams of becoming integrated into modern Swedish society and studying at a prestigious university, a dream that requires her to renounce her proud lineage and sever ties with her family. A nuanced look at the pressures of adolescence and how prejudice can become internalised.

Girl Rising (2013)

girl rising

Directed by Academy Award-nominee Richard E Robbins, and narrated by acclaimed actresses Meryl Streep, Kerry Washington and Anne Hathaway, Girl Rising follows nine underprivileged girls from Afghanistan, Haiti, Nepal, India, Egypt, Peru, Cambodia, Sierra Leone and Ethiopia as they strive to achieve their dreams in the face of societal and cultural barriers. Created by 10x10, an organisation that seeks to achieve educational equality for women around the world, Girl Rising is an inspiring documentary that documents the power of education to change the world.

Jackson (2016)


As the US Senate gears up to appoint a new Supreme Court justice, and pro-choice activists vehemently protest Brett Kavanaugh's nomination, abortion rights in the States are as under the microscope as ever. In Jackson, director Maisie Crow tells the story of the last abortion clinic in Mississippi. Following three women with very different attitudes to abortion – Shannon, a clinic employee, pro-life activist Barbara and April, dealing with her fifth unplanned pregnancy – Jackson offers an incisive look at the American debate over abortion.

Out of Place (2016)

out of place

Set across China, Hong Kong and Thailand, this Vice documentary compares and contrasts the lives of two transgender people – wealthy Hong Kong native Bobbie and Guizhou activist Mr C – as they experience various challenges and victories. Directed by Joshua Frank and Han Xia, Out of Place offers a balanced and informative look at a community that remains broadly unacknowledged in Asia.

The speakers


Roser Corella is the Spanish filmmaker behind acclaimed documentary Grab and Run and will take part in a Q&A session after its screening on September 16. Previously a video-journalist for Catalan TV, Roser's passion for human interest stories led her to self-produce documentaries such as Prisoners of Kanun, a film exploring centuries-old Albanian blood feuds, and Tales from Dadaab, an affecting documentary about the largest refugee camp in the world.


Carlos Macet-Marques (pictured) and Jules Nurrish are the director and co-writer of Anchor and Hope and are scheduled to lead a forum discussing its themes and ideas on September 15. Carlos is a Spanish filmmaker whose first fiction feature film 10,000km was awarded a Goya Award and five Gaudí Awards, while Jules is a British director and screenwriter whose short films have been screened at festivals all over the globe, including Sundance Film Festival.


Fanni Metelius is the triple-threat talent (writer-director-actress) behind The Heart, a modern Swedish romance exploring the way romantic relationships can fall apart, despite the best intentions of both sides. Hailed as one of her generation's leading auteurs, Fanni leads a discussion about multiculturalism in film and the current climate for female filmmakers in Sweden on September 21.

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