Queering the screen: Film fest to honour the need of safe space for LGBTQIA+ people
The series aligns itself with the global mandate to give the month of June a special place in the annual calendar in solidarity with LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, and other marginalized) people who face human rights violations all over the world
MUMBAI: The G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture, which operates out of a repurposed warehouse in the old mill area of Mahalaxmi, is hosting Queer Reel: Now + Then – a series of film screenings in honour of Pride Month. The three-day series of films opened on Friday.
The series aligns itself with the global mandate to give the month of June a special place in the annual calendar in solidarity with LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, and other marginalized) people who face human rights violations all over the world. Pride Month commemorates the historic Stonewall Riots that occurred in June 1969 when members of the community fought against police brutality in New York City.
G5A’s founder and artistic director, Anuradha Parikh said, “We see ourselves as a safe space, and believe that every marginalized community, whether it’s LGBTQIA+ people or Dalits, should have a voice here and feel a sense of comfort and community when they come over.”
The series opened with a screening of Anmol Sidhu’s ‘Jaggi’ (2021), a feature film set in rural Punjab, on Friday. The film offers a compelling look at patriarchy and toxic masculinity through the story of a policeman’s son who struggles with erectile dysfunction. After he confides in a classmate, he finds himself at the receiving end of rumours that he is a gay man.
Brought up in a culture that valorizes virility and promotes repression, boys at school and men in the village make the protagonist’s life miserable. He is raped by men from the village who threaten to harm him if he speaks up. Sidhu was present at the event, along with assistant director Harmandeep Singh and producer Dhruv Bakshi. They participated in a post-screening discussion with filmmaker Vikramaditya Motwane and members of the audience.
“This film is based on real-life situations. It is not uncommon for men in rural Punjab to go through such violent experiences because people who are sexually repressed look for easy targets. It does not matter to them, whether it is a man, a woman or a dog that they are after,” said Sidhu. He admitted that he was not even aware of the word “queer”; he was simply trying to tell a story that would break the culture of silence and provoke people to think.
Priya Sen’s ‘Yeh Freedom Life’ (2018) filmed in Delhi’s Ambedkar Nagar, Leena Manimekalai’s ‘Is It Too Much To Ask?’ (2017) set in Chennai, and Praful Tyagi’s ‘Kanwar’ (2023) that unfolds in Haryana, will be shown on Saturday. The itinerary for Sunday includes Rohin Raveendran’s ‘The Booth’ (2019), Ambiecka Pandit’s ‘Under the Waters’ (2022), Riyad Wadia and Jangu Sethna’s ‘BomGay’ (1996), and Nishit Saran’s ‘Summer in my Veins’ (1999). Wadia-Sethna’s and Saran’s films enjoy a legendary status in Indian LGBTQIA+ history but prints are not easy to access. The screening of ‘BomGay’ will be followed by a discussion between Sethna and Pune-based poet R Raj Rao, whose verse is used in the film to depict metropolitan gay subcultures in post-liberalization India.
The Queer Reel: Now + Then series is part of a year-long Cinema House programme led by filmmaker-screenwriter Nikkhil Advani, who sits on G5A’s advisory council, and is keen to develop an audience for independent, regional and contemporary cinema in Mumbai.
“I am wary of the flatness and righteousness that I see in many queer films that are making the rounds of festivals these days. We wanted to show films that are cinematically exciting in terms of voice, aesthetics and thematic engagement,” said film critic Prathyush Parasuraman, who has worked with Advani to curate the selection of eight films to mark Pride Month.
He added, “The films that made the cut are inventive in style, fearless, and not too invested in respectability. That feels important because queerness is not only about gender and sexuality; it’s about looking askance, asking questions and challenging the limits set by normativity.”
Queer Reel: Now + Then – the series of film screenings – will conclude on June 18.