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Key Themes

The themes of „resistance against religious fundamentalism“, „sexualized violence as a weapon of war“, and „mother-daughter dialogue“ are just some of the topics that will be illuminated from diverse perspectives in the more than 30 international feature and documentary films at the festival.

This year, the focus is on strong women in resistance against religious fundamentalism, like the Saudi Arabian poet Hissa Hilal – who, on the popular casting show „Million’s Poet“, speaks out in evocative language against the terror of the clerics in her homeland, and who prevails, round after round against her male opponents („The Poetess“). Also, Maria, the „Girl Unbound“ will not be cowed: although she hales from a stronghold of the Taliban in northwestern Pakistan and she receives regular death threats, the 25-year-old athlete pursues her passion to play squash in defiance of the fundamentalists. At first, in „The Women’s Balcony“, the young Rabbi David seems to be a ray of hope. Yet his extremely orthodox, misogynistic beliefs increasingly divide the congregation – the women won’t put up with that treatment and start a protest. And in „Bar Bahar – In Between“, the liberal Djane Salma and the tough defense lawyer Layla and her new roommate Noura form an alliance against Noura’s strictly orthodox fiancé. Together, they stand up for a self-determined, free life. In contrast, the military –trained fighters in „Girls‘ War“ are directly involved in the war of liberation against the Islamic state – by attempting to regain villages seized by IS.

Sexualized violence has always been used as a weapon of war. There were the so-called “comfort women” in the second world war, who were forced into prostitution by the Japanese military (“The Apology”); or the polish nuns in the French drama “Les Innocentes”, who were raped by soldiers of the Red Army. And still today, women in war zones become victims of sexualized violence, like the Yazidi women in „Reseba – The Dark Wind“, who are kidnapped by terrorists from the Islamic state and sold as sex slaves. In the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the women’s center „City of Joy“ offers women a safe place to heal from their trauma, and the chance to move forward in life with renewed hope and joy.

Mother-daughter dialogues allow Huang and her lesbian mother, Anu, to work through painful memories and develop a new closeness in „Small Talk“. The director Stefanie Brockhaus also learns more about her own family through dialogues, as she, due to her personal situation, explores the topic of abortion and discovers that her mother, grandmother and aunt have all taken this difficult step (“Some Things Are Hard To Talk About”).And in “Child Mother”, conversations about the past help families to heal and grow closer, as children hear about their mothers’ arranged early marriages, - allowing light to be shed on the previously unspoken trauma.


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