Advocating at the THIMUN Qatar Northwestern Film Festival
By Reina Seorin Park, Grade 10, Dover Campus
A few months ago, I was granted the great honor of being nominated for the ‘Best Editing’ and ‘Best Poster’ categories in the prestigious 2016 THIMUN Qatar Northwestern Film Festival on 24-26 March. This film festival aims to encourage the production of films that focus attention on certain issues from either a local or global perspective, through cinematic arts as well as a true passion for film-making.
My film, ‘DisComfort Women’, was based on raising awareness about the currently overlooked ‘comfort women’ issue in many Asian countries. 'Comfort women' refers to women and girls, from Japanese-occupied territories, who were forcefully abducted or coerced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. Girls as young as 14 were taken, and were abused physically, mentally, and sexually at wartime brothels. These girls suffered an average of around 50 soldiers per day. Having recruited more than 200,000 women at the time, today less than 50 remain alive worldwide. Despite clear evidence and multiple testimonies proving the systematic way in which the comfort women system was devised by the Japanese military in power, the current government refuses to take proper responsibility, or even offer a word of sincere apology to the women, and in fact have attempted to erase these incidences from history through monetary ‘compensations’, which the victims find perfunctory.
This issue of 'comfort women' was one that had always struck close to home for me personally, and as soon as we were given the ‘Advocacy Film’ assignment in my IGCSE Global Perspectives class, I jumped onto it with my friend, Antonia Harrold. After weeks of planning, discussing, and editing, we found ourselves with a film. Although technically not that great, we were proud of the film’s spirit, and we were over the moon when we found out about our nomination - both at the fact that we were given such an honor, and also at that our film could be showcased and raise awareness on an even wider scale.
Three days and four nights were spent at the Qatar Film Festival, and I can say with confidence that I wouldn’t trade the experience I had for the world (unfortunately my partner could not come with me due to clashes with previous engagements). The Festival endorsed my flight (round trip), the three night stay at the Doha Four Seasons Hotel.
On the first day, we attended a film-making seminar by Northwestern University Qatar alum JaserAlagha, followed by a desert film-making challenge with GoPros. We were split into groups and filmed about the different themes we were assigned - ours being the “Qatari Culture”, which we were very excited about. The desert was beautiful, and we even took part in a high speed motorized desert car ride! In the evening we were taken to a Qatar night market, where we were allowed to freely traverse in the midst of Qatari food, dance, and music. On the second day we edited our desert films and watched our finished films at a community viewing, followed by screenings of our own nominated films, where we had to explain our motives and participated in a short Q&A session. The films all, without any exaggeration, took my breath away, in the evident passion for film-making and the cinematic caliber. The films covered a variety of topics such as the overdependence on technology, loss of indigenous cultures, environmental destruction, and so on. We were also given a few hours of free time to explore the city. Finally, the final day ended with a gala dinner, where the winners were announced and we won ‘Best Picture’ - the prize being a GoPro camera!
I was humbled by all the amazing people, films, and experiences I had the privilege of taking part in on this trip, and although cliché, I speak nothing but the truth when I say it was a life-changing three days.