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Wench Film Festival: Sapna Bhavnani announces lineup for the third edition of India's first inclusive horror fest

The horror fest featuring BIWOC, LGBTQ+ and non-binary filmmakers from India and abroad

Wench Film Festival: Sapna Bhavnani announces lineup for the third edition of India's first inclusive horror fest

Last Updated: 04.30 PM, Mar 09, 2023


Wench Film Festival: Sapna Bhavnani announces lineup for the third edition of India's first inclusive horror fest

The horror fest featuring BIWOC, LGBTQ+ and non-binary filmmakers from India and abroad

Hair stylist-turned-filmmaker Sapna Bhavnani is set to hold the third edition of Wench Film Festival, India's first horror film festival, both physically and virtually. Founded by Sapna, this is the first time that the festival will be held physically.

The festival, which will showcase films from BIWOC, LGBTQ+ women, and non-binary filmmakers, will take place from March 17 to 20 at Mumbai’s Harkat Studio and Veda Factory. The virtual screenings will run from March 10 to March 20, 2023.

The festival opens with the award-winning Mexican film Huesera: The Bone Woman directed by Michelle Garza Cerver, and closes with The Nightmare directed by Alice Wadding.

Twenty three Indian and international films will be in competition, including Aarti Kadav’s The Astronaut and His Parrot and Megha Ramaswami’s Lalanna’s Song, along with talks and panel discussions with horror directors Vishal Furia, Vikram Bhatt, Anvita Dutt, Gauri Shinde, and Kaizad Gustad.

The festival will also screen the cult horror film Tumbbad.

Wench Film Festival's goal is to promote and celebrate the horror genre, including films that are created by women.

The films will be shown under three different categories: Blood Thirsty (more than 40 mins), Dwarves (10-40 mins), and Elves (less than 10 mins).

The jury judging the three different categories will comprise Annick Mahnert and Shari Frillot (Blood Thirsty), Alexandre Heller-Nicholas (Dwarves) and Namrata Joshi (Elves).

Speaking about the film festival, Sapna said, “In the process of writing my new film Bearlike Man, I realised a palpable lack of female representation in the genre outfit of India. Over the three decades I looked at, 9.9% of directors were women. Horror comes with just 5.9% of directors being women and Sci-fi 2.8%. I find this statistic offensive. When I found out I was the first Indian woman director to pitch at BIFAN I knew I had to change gears and move the female gaze to the genre space that has eluded it for a long time.”

She added, “The goal of the Wench FIlm Festival is to highlight women, but also to promote and celebrate the genre space that has been in our blood since birth. India is a country of many religions and each has their own superstitions and rituals and we are amazed that we don’t have a festival yet. We are happy to start the conversation and like all things that start first, building the foundation is of utmost importance as well as collaborating with people who have been instrumental in building the genre space. When I hear Indians saying they do not like horror I laugh, as we are the land of spirituality which starts with spirit. “

Here is the lineup:

BLOOD THIRSTY - More than 40 mins

1) Huesera: The Bone Woman (Winner) - Mumbai premiere

Synopsis: Valeria has long dreamed about becoming a mother. After learning that she's pregnant, she expects to feel happy, yet something's off.

Language: Spanish

Director: Michelle Garza Cerver

Duration: 53min

2) The Nightmare- India premiere

Synopsis: In the early 19th century, the paranoia created by the death of three women in a village triggers hatred towards a mysterious stranger.1880 in a village in mountainous Galicia: A series of mysterious deaths plague the region. All the victims are young women, and killed in strange circumstances. And the villagers begin to suspect that the culprit is Naim, a strange neighbour who lives apart... without ever going out during the day. But Lúa, a young village girl who sees through their prejudices, will do everything she can to protect their most hidden secrets.

Language: Spanish

Direction: Alice Waddington

Duration: 52 Mins

3) Rupture- Asia premiere

Synopsis: Mrs. Pospisil refuses to go to a nursing home despite her 80 years. But one day she discovers a crack in the wall of her old apartment, from which something sinister seems to spread quickly. But she doesn't even want to be impressed by that. So she declares war on the crack - if it's the last thing she has to do ...

Language: German

Director: Paul Ertl

Duration: 53min

4) Honeycomb- India premiere

Synopsis: Five small-town girls abandon their mundane lives and move into an abandoned cabin. Growing increasingly isolated, their world becomes filled with imagined rituals and rules but the events of one summer night threaten to abruptly end their age of innocence forever.

Language: English

Director: Avalon Fast

Duration: 1hr 10min

ELVES - 10mins

1) Kaaliraathri

Synopsis: A mother and a son, who share a murky past, enter into an argument on the night of the Bharani festival. The mother suspects the woman in her married son’s bedroom to be a whore. The son doubts the mother’s sanity. The woman, Kaali, is mute. Gradually, the real, the imagined, the surreal and the mythical combine to create an atmosphere of horror. The horror is patriarchy.

Language: Malayalam

Director: Bishwas Balan

Duration: 7min

2) Knit One, Stab Two (Winner)

Synopsis: In this film, I ask, what happens when the woman knits in a horror film? What might the representation of knitting tell us about social and cultural expectations around gender, genre and age? I then draw on the potential for videographic work to disrupt stereotyped representations of ageing women across over a century of horror cinema.

Language: English

Director: Alison Peirse

Duration: 9min

3) Wolf Whistle

Synopsis: A young woman goes for a run. Once the sunsets, she finds herself vulnerable and alone in the park, but all is not what it seems.

Language: English

Director: Jennifer Handorf

Duration: 5min

4) Hexatic Phase

Synopsis: When a sexual encounter becomes assaultive, Violet notices her tattoo dripping into the bedsheets. The next morning, she discovers a slick of clear viscous mucus in the crook of her arm. In an attempt to process the assault and the strange deterioration of her body, Violet calls her mother, only to have the validity of her story called into question. The erasure of her agency redoubled, Violet’s surroundings drip and pool around her. Her body violated and her truth negated, Violet melts away.

Language: English

Director: Ariel McCleese

Duration: 6min

5) Sucker - India premiere

Synopsis: Sam discovers her sister Caitlin has been infested by a monstrous, gigantic leech creature that is slowly sucking her life force dry. Caitlin is reluctant to accept help and the sisters quarrel over how to deal with the parasite. Meanwhile, Sam struggles against the creature’s hostile, telepathic takeover, only to find that she herself has become a host...

Language: English

Director: Alix Austin

Duration: 8min

6) Furia- India premiere

Synopsis: The film deals with the problem of growing anger, frustration and aggression that seeks an outlet. The heroine of the film is a person who loses control of her anger. Losing herself in emotions, she cannot stand the tension. The animation shows suppressed anger and imaginary physical violence. It refers to commonly formulated thoughts or intentions: my blood is flooding... my nerves are choking, I will tear him to shreds .... I am about to kill someone .... etc.

Language: No Dialogues

Director: Julia Siuda

Duration: 5min

7) It takes a village (LGBTQ+) - Asia premier

Synopsis: This short was written by Glamhag and Sarah Squirm (NBC's SNL) and is an action packed short inspired by Rosemary's Baby. Made in Chicago.

Language: English

Director: Glamhag

Duration: 7min

DWARVES 10- 40 mins

1) The Softboy

Synopsis: The Softboy is an creepypasta audiovisual that narrates the encounter with the Softboy, a soft and gentle being. The non- spectral, non-monstrous, but terrifying figure of the Softboy serves as an archetype to unravel soft masculinity and its role in the sophistication of gender violence.

Language: English, Spanish

Director: Laura Tabarés

Duration: 16min

2) Aalo/ The Light

Synopsis: Mother and daughter are left alone in the house to navigate the grief of son’s unnatural disappearance. As they slowly start descending into delirium, daughter tries to emulate behavioural traits of the brother, whereas mother starts talking to the light. It becomes the daughter's responsibility to stop mother from meeting the same fate as son while dealing with her sorrows.

Language: Bengali

Director: Soham Kundu

Duration: 23min

3) Violet Daze

Synopsis: Violet and Daisy have been best friends since they were five. Total besties. BFFs. Joined at the hip. How close can two best friends get? What would they do if anyone tried to separate them?

Language: English

Director: Clare Langsford, Marisa Martin

Duration: 15min

4) Three Ways to Dine Well

Synopsis: I had three aims for this film. First, I wanted the audience to discover that women worked in major roles in such horror classics as The Shining, The Evil Dead and Rosemary’s Baby. Second, I wanted to illuminate little known horror films helmed by women, such as Nettie Peña's Home Sweet Home.Third, I wanted to showcase the work of women horror filmmakers from across the globe. Sit back, enjoy, and prepare to stack up a ton of new viewing recs.

Language: English

Director: Alison Peirse

Duration: 21min

5) Lalanna’s Song

Synopsis: Lalanna’s Song is a cautionary look into small acts of hate taking place in this age of abundance. Two young mothers, Miriam and Shoby, encounter twelve-year-old Lalanna whose ways unwittingly unsettle them, and they take deceptively small measures in setting her straight.

Director: Megha Ramaswamy

Duration: 34min

6) The Astronaut and his Parrot

Synopsis: An accident causes a spaceship to explode and an astronaut tumbles out of it. He starts floating and falling in space and frantically tries to connect to someone.

Language: Hindi

Director: Arati Kadav

Duration: 15:34 mins

7) Abnormal Prime Time

Synopsis: Seoul has changed day and night due to the extreme UV rays caused by the climate crisis.Born in 1992, her younger sister In-Kyung, who lives with her older sister who works at her job, lives as a freelance insurance agent during the day and sleeps at night.One day, In-Kyung gets a phone call from her sister telling her to come out right away at midday when everyone is asleep.

Language: Korean

Director: Kirin SINN

Duration: 14min

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