Case Study: Rainbow Film Festival

The 20th Rainbow Film Festival took place in July 2019 in East London, presenting over 30 international titles with a specific focus on reaching Asian women, Asian families and young Asians. It also hosted a day-long workshop for women looking to engage with film on a personal or professional level.


Organised by Rainbow Film Society, the 20th edition of the Rainbow Film Festival presented over 30 international titles at venues across East London in July 2019. Due to language and social barriers in the local Bangladeshi community, it has often been difficult to encourage women and families to engage in the programme. In an effort to directly address this, there were family-friendly Bangladeshi titles screening as part of the festival.

The programme took place at Genesis Cinema, Rich Mix and the Brady Arts Centre for one week and consisted of films from 13 countries including the UK, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran, Norway, Jordan, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Greece and Belgium.

The programme also included a screening for children followed by a workshop and a day-long Women's Film Conference. A total of 28 women from different parts of London participated. Bengali film actress Jayasree Kabir, film activist Amita Shankar, Director of Balkan Arts Yesim Gulzepinar, and film directors Debanik Kundu and Syed Jobair Ahmed presented a film programme and hosted a workshop.

The children’s workshop was attended by 26 children with their parents. Films made by young children at Rainbow Film Society and a young people's workshop by Tower Hamlets Council were screened at the event. All participating children were presented with certificates to inspire and encourage them to take part in this type of programme.

Festival guests were mainly from the local Bangladeshi community but the festival also attracted audiences from across London.

Project aims

  • To bring in new audiences who usually do not visit cinema at all or visit very rarely. This includes Asian families, Asian women and young adults.

  • To encourage and engage young people under 16 into films and filmmaking.

  • To bring in those women who have rarely or never been to the cinema to go and see a film.

  • To extend the festival beyond the Tower Hamlets area.


  • Audience attendance was more than expected.

  • By showcasing films made by children, the festival helped boost their morale and confidence with a sense of achievement.

  • During the women’s conference, women who usually don’t go to the cinema went to see a film.

  • Drawing in the Bangladeshi community and building connections with the local community.

  • The majority of the festival attendees were female, even though Bangladeshi women are traditionally non-cinema goers.


30 films in total were screened as part of the festival (both feature films and shorts). These included Fagun Haway (2019, Bangladesh), Komola Rocket (2018, Bangladesh), Azar (2017, Iran) and Ek Je Chhilo Raja (2018, India), amongst others.

Key partnerships

The festival cooperated with various organisations including Rich Mix Centre, Genesis Cinema, Brady Arts Centre, Icon College, MC Accountant, Young News, Kolotan, Montefiore Centre and individuals such as community leaders and journalists.

Budget in brief

Key income sources: Borough of Tower Hamlets and Canary Wharf; £3,000 Film Hub London award. Overall income (cash and in-kind combined): £14,168; subsidy per head: £4.55.

What worked

  • Reinforcement and growth of ties with the local Bangladeshi community.

  • There was great interest in the women’s conference, with participants expressing interest to attend again.

  • Drawing in a younger audience as well as traditional non-attendees.

  • The festival managed to maintain their audience, but they also acquired 25% new audiences.

  • 100% of the festival goers said that they would come to an event like Rainbow Film Festival again.

What has been difficult

  • There were slight disappointments on the issues of fundraising and total income for the festival. Rainbow anticipated to raise £17k, but were only able to raise £11k, including contributions from the audience. Faced with this, they had to carefully cut costs to run the festival smoothly.

What you would do differently if you did it again

  • Suggestions were made to extend the days for the women’s workshop and hold the event preferably on weekends when more women could join.

  • Need more side activities such as the women’s conference.

  • Contact organisations further ahead of time.

  • Recruit more volunteers and a couple of paid members of staff.

  • Develop a fundraising strategy.

Awareness / Attitudes

– Reaching out to the local Bangladeshi community and strengthening ties with the local community.
– Getting younger audiences and women who usually don’t watch films to go to the cinema.
– With the children’s workshop, the festival engaged and motivated young people to go to the cinema and see films by young filmmakers, reflecting their daily lives.
– The festival especially reached out to Bangladeshi women who have never been involved in film or media and brought them in touch with female industry professionals to discuss their options to enter the industry and to help them explore new interests and talents.
– 65% of the audience said that the festival introduced them to new kinds of films.


– The festival was successful in reaching the Bangladeshi community.
– The festival especially reached out to new audiences who usually do not visit cinema at all or visit very rarely. This includes Asian families, Asian women and young adults.
– The festival especially targeted the women of the Bangladeshi community to bring them together by going to the cinema. In 2019, the majority of the Rainbow Film Festival attendees were female, even though Bangladeshi women are traditional non-cinema goers.
– 90% of the festival goers were BAME audiences with a majority of Asian/Bangladeshi community members.

Knowledge & Experience

– The women’s conference helped especially Bangladeshi women who traditionally rarely go to the cinema or not at all.
– The children’s screening encouraged young people under 16 years to go and see the international films that the programme offered – films which they traditionally don’t see if they go to the cinema at all. The festival also showcased films by young people under 16 that encouraged young audience members to engage with film and the filmmakers.
– Almost 36% of the audience said that the festival increased their awareness of film heritage. 20% said that they learned something new about film.

Social Cohesion

– The festival reinforced its ties to the Bangladeshi community and brought the community together at the cinemas.
– The festival especially reached out to Asian families, Asian women and young adults in the borough of Tower Hamlets to encourage them go to the cinema and watch films together.


– The audience survey showed that 100% of the festival goers had a very good or good experience at the venue.
– The festival especially tried to motivate and entertain young audiences and people who usually are not cinema goes and thereby brought something new into their lives, something to think about and possibly explore themselves.


– The festival spent their funds on marketing material, photography/filming and decoration locally and thereby supported the economy in the Tower Hamlets area.
– The festival also extended screenings beyond the Tower Hamlets area, thereby attracting festival guests also outside its local area in other boroughs.

What audiences said

  • I felt these events really brought the community together. It was delightful to see people from all kinds of backgrounds attending the film festival. Seeing some of the films from my home country of Bangladesh, and other countries like India, Iran and Norway was really entertaining. I liked that most of the films focused on social issues which many can relate to. I also liked short films and exhibition on famous film directors. I really admire Rainbow Film Society's ongoing support for independent film makers, I feel it is very inspiring for the younger generation of independent film makers from all over the world. I want to thank Rainbow Film Society and their sponsors for organising the festival. I will definitely be attending again next year!

  • Our society, specially Bangladeshi community women, are not going out for watch a film. RAINBOW did fantastic job in giving us the opportunity to watch the film with family and friends. Story was beyond my expectations. All those movies we are not able to watch on line. All day women’s conference-great opportunity to meet peoples from different countries and culture. Also how they think and their opinions.

  • We love this film festival and wait for whole year to be happened. I come to this festival with my family almost every day and we enjoy the films very much. I was delighted to be able to attend this year's Women's Film Conference which enrich my knowledge on films and helps to understand film differently. I would like to say thanks to Rainbow Film Society.

Press coverage

  • The festival had news coverage and an hour-long talk show on ATN Bangla TV, Channel S and on Betar Bangla (radio station).

  • (in Bengali)