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Female-Led Mumbai Festival Turns 20 With #MeToo Conversations

The Mumbai Academy of the Moving Image’s annual film festival turns 20 at a time when the Indian film industry finds itself in the middle of the #MeToo movement. The festival is one of the few where the core leadership is composed entirely of women.

Producer Kiran Rao (“Secret Superstar”) is the festival chairperson, while businesswoman and owner of the Mumbai Indians cricket franchise Nita Mukesh Ambani is the co-chair. Critic and broadcaster Anupama Chopra is the festival director and producer Smriti Kiran is the creative director.

The festival has already dropped a few films associated with those men accused of harassment and will tackle the issue head on. “MAMI stands in complete solidarity and we are not going to ever shy away from talking about it or making sure that we contribute to escalating the conversation and to also bring in nuance to this conversation,” Kiran told Variety. The festival will also conduct workshops on prevention of sexual harassment.

In 2014, when the current team came together, the festival was more than $100,000 in debt, and on the verge of closure. Bollywood rallied around with financial contributions.Billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s telecommunications company Reliance Jio Infocomm came on board as presenting sponsor, Fox’s Star India as associate sponsor.

“I am delighted by the work done by Kiran Rao, Anupama Chopra and Smriti Kiran,” said festival co-founder and veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal (“Zubeidaa”). “They have made it into a much better festival than it ever was.”

The program features titles that have won acclaim around the world, including “Roma,” “Wildlife,” and “Touch Me Not.” The festival opens with Vasan Bala’s Toronto audience award winner “The Man Who Feels No Pain” and closes with Steve McQueen’s female empowerment thriller “Widows.” The masterclasses line-up includes Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, MUBI founder Efe Cakarel, and filmmakers Darren Aronofsky (“Mother!”), Sean Baker (“The Florida Project”) and Lucrecia Martel (“Zama”).

“The challenges now are that it’s a live event, anything is possible and the stress never ends, but it’s what we signed up for!,” said Chopra.

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