KASHISH 2017: Films and activism galore!
Posted on 2 June, 2017 by Team Wishberry
We were at KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Festival and we loved the entire experience! Now, that the festival is done, here’s a roundup of films that we loved. There are mentions from all over the world, so get ready for your dose of amazing independent cinema!
This list cannot begin without mentioning Faraz Ansari’s seminal work, which is being touted as India’s first silent LGBTQ film. Sisak details the fleeting moments of love and affection that two men experience on board Mumbai’s iconic local train. The setting is beautiful — shot entirely on trains, all the elements of the film come together beautifully. The acting is restrained yet emotive in a way that makes you sit up and notice, the background music moves seamlessly with the narrative aiding it at all places and the camera tells you the story in the most intimate and personal way possible. Sisak is all about love and an apt message in a world where hatred seems to be ruling the roost. On a side-note, when Kashish’s festival director and noted filmmaker Sridhar Rangayan introduced Faraz to the audience before Sisak’s screening, Liberty Cinema erupted in uproarious applause — that was a vision and it was heartening to see a community come together in large numbers for one of their own!
This was Kashish’s opening film and received thunderous response from the audience! Fawzia Mirza, the writer, producer and actor of the film was present and she is a force to reckon with! In a nutshell, Signature Move is the coming out story of a 30-something lawyer, and her troubled confrontation with her nosy mother (played by the powerhouse of acting talent that is Shabana Azmi, who manages to portray the angst and loneliness of recently widowed middle-aged woman with so much grace and nuance). The film uses humour as a potent tool and is an easy watch.
Loev was the closing film at Kashish and it was a fitting tribute to the festival’s theme of ‘Diverse One’. Director Sudhanshu Saria’s debut road-trip feature is the narrative of two men who reconnect after many years and discover how complicated their equation is. The film reflects on missed opportunities, the travails of modern-day existence and finally, the development of a bond that is beautiful. The characters are people you and I meet on a daily basis (we might just be those people!). Loev doesn’t resort to tried and tested formulas to make homosexuality more 'palatable'. It just is.
Gloria and Grace
Directed by Flávio R. Tambellini, this Brazilian narrative feature is an LGBTQAI+ family drama. It details the life of two siblings — one is on the brink of having her life turned topsy-turvy and the other who is at a good and stable place. However, there is another detail, the brother from the past, is today a ‘sister’. Beautifully executed, Gloria and Grace is full of drama, black humour, tragic twists and turns, and actors who play their parts amazingly well. This is a film that is also reflective of the mind-set of the country it represents and it is truly heartening to realize that despite our bigoted approach towards the rights of the LGBTQAI+ community in India, there might still be hope.
P.S.: The film went on to win the Best Narrative Feature Film Award at Kashish.
If soul-stirring narratives are your ‘poison’, then this Armenian feature film is what you should watch. Aram visits Armenia to seek formal approval from his girlfriend’s conservative family. He also has as agenda on mind — after meeting his prospective in-laws, Aram needs to set off on a road trip that will take him to Iran for his gender reassignment surgery. Apricot Groves tells a tale that all of us are well aware of — it catalogues the experience of an individual who is on the verge of a life-changing moment. The film details the beauty of everyday Armenia where we meet characters who are somewhat like us, yet different. Aram’s supportive brother is the person every conflicted human being needs — a brother in arms, a helping hand, a boisterous fun-loving pal and finally, an empathising individual.
Chronicles of Hari (Harikatha Prasanga)
This film has been generating a lot of buzz in the festival circuit since 2016. Ananya Kasaravalli's debut feature is a telling tale of ostracization that the transgender community has faced and continues to battle even today — in 2017 India. Hari is a Yakshagana performer and is celebrated like a star in his village. However, despite the fame, Hari is at conflict with himself — his daily transformations from man to woman at night, and woman to man in the morning take a toll on his identity and he slowly but surely refuses to go back to being a man simply because he was assigned his gender at birth. What follows is a woeful account of his trials and tribulations, momentary relief in the form of support, and a tragic, yet, very realistic end. Chronicles of Hari was one of the most anticipated films at Kashish and the audience’s response to it was heart-warming.
White Nights (Velutha Rathrikal)
Directed by Razi Muhammed, White Nights is a tribute to the great Fyodor Dostoyevsky and it beautifully details what we all have come to know as existential angst. Two people meet and develop a bond that seems perfect. However, there is dilemma — one of them is waiting for her lover to return. White Nights has been shot in an expansive yet intimate fashion. It beautifully weaves in the meta with the micro. It is a tribute to the singular strength of a woman fighting battles propped up by an ignorant and biased society, it is a tale of an ‘ambivalent’ man who has been hurt way too many times by the world and finally, Velutha Rathrikal is a tribute to love and its power. Watch this one for its cinematography as well!
Two Soft Things, Two Hard Things
This documentary was a revelation. The piece traces the rich and complex history of the Canadian territory of Nunavut. The entry point into the film is a pride celebration in Nunavut that triggers a greater narrative. It becomes the tale of bravery of a few LGBTQAI+ individuals in the Inuit community and also a historical account of how colonization, cultural appropriation, large-scale exploitation and the drive to hold on to one’s identity, make this territory not just a geographical reality, but a very real entity. The fact that Mona Belleau, an Inuk LGBTQAI+ activist was present at Kashish, a film festival that was being supported by the Canadian Consulate in India, was proof of two things: Governments have to recognize the rights of people with varied sexual orientations. Along with that it has to also come to terms with, and actively seek to undo the damage that the long history of oppression has levied on the aboriginals and those who have been now pushed to the periphery.
Apart from these path-breaking narratives, Kashish's eighth edition also witnessed amazing shorts:
- Escaping Agra: This is a powerful, powerful film. This 23-minute film talks of the struggles of Naveen Bhat as a non-binary person born to Indian parents.
- Home: This 24-minute Albanian short told the story of a woman saying 'no' to patriarchy, of falling in love with a married woman and of being made an outcast by her family.
- Ariel: Set in London, this evocative short told of the star-crossed love between two homeless people; a disillusioned man and a transgender person.
- Chudala: Mariya Sayeed's 15-minute short can be summed up with what appears on a text plate: For my father, who wanted a boy.
- Goddess (Devi): This short is a problematic take on a young woman's road to discovering her sexual identity and how, in her quest of finding the 'self', she endangers the life of Devi, her house-maid.
- Scar Tissue: This short is a reflection of the times we live in — set in London, it looks at a date/ hook-up between a Londoner and a Syrian migrant.
- Coming Out - India Stories: This is a collection of stories of individuals who fought against the tide and chose to live life on their own terms.