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Celebrating sexual diversity with Queer Film Package at Open Frame Film Festival

The festival hosted films dealing with issues of identities, desires, selfhood, relationships and mental health refreshing the spectrum of queer cultures on screen.

Avijit Mukul Kishore and Anindya Shankar Das (Photo: Open Frame Film Festival)

Abhija Ghosh

A package of films engaging with various aspects of gender and sexualities played to packed audiences on Sunday (16 September) afternoon at the Open Frame Film Festival in New Delhi.

The films dealing with issues of identities, desires, selfhood, relationships and mental health collectively presented a refreshing spectrum of queer cultures on screen. Moderating the post-screening panel discussion, along with feminist filmmaker Vani Subramaniam, Avijit Mukul Kishore pointed out that it’s indeed admirable that the conventional documentary modes of representing queer issues and selves such as blurring of faces or presenting the subjects in silhouttes and shadows had been done away with in these films.

This visibility and acceptance of the queer self in front of the camera, while still keeping the spirit of critique alive, is ushering in a new vocabulary for documentary film practice in India. In light of the Supreme Court order, revoking Article 377 and the NALSA judgement, this panel occasioned a significant moment for both celebration and reflections on the road ahead.

Navdeep Sharma’s A Safe Person To Talk To, and Anushka Shivdasani Rovshen and Madhuri Mohindar’s Breathe dealt with what it means to navigate known and unknown social spaces while coming to terms with one’s sexuality as well as mental health.

For Shivdasani Rovshen, her film becomes a conduit for the experiences and aspirations of her protagonists. While the stories were theirs, her effort was to present the fluidity inherent in gender identities. That visual cultures and spaces such as this festival and even online communities are essential for nurturing support groups instead of slotting people in gendered categories.

Taking on the issues of transitioning from assigned genders at birth to claiming their political and professional selves, Ajita Banerjie’s I’m Not There opened up the idea of migration and safe spaces.
Banerjie’s film combines the journey of discovering one’s gender, whether as transwoman or transman, with the journey of her protagonists finding their professional space, activism and creating a safe home for themselves and the larger community. I’m Not There works as a visual metaphor while also identifying collectives like the Alternative Law Forum and LesBIT as nurturing spaces, not only providing the political voice and front for advocacy but also forming social bonds.

On similar lines, Ishq, Dosti And All That by Rituparna Borah and Ritambhara Mehta follow their subjects as they negotiate and celebrate their social bonds and friendships.

Vani Subramanium remarked how the need to form relations outside of the natal familial spaces and was sensitively captured by both these films while continuing the spirit of questioning. Zara Nazar Uthake Dekho is, perhaps, one of the first films in India to take on the aspect cruising in public spaces for sex.

Anindya Shankar Das said that while he was very aware of the intrusiveness of his camera, he made a difficult but conscious choice to film public spaces and juxtapose those to personal stories of cruising.

In interesting and tantalizing ways, his film brought to fore how these gendered and sexualized public spaces such as parks, bus stations and movie theatres, created slippages and attractions by averting the legal and administrative gaze.

Please Mind The Gap, too, enjoys such subversion of public gaze as its protagonist playfully narrates the journey of transition through adolescent relationships and public interactions while commuting in the Delhi Metro. Both films navigate the aspects of visibility and embody a certain kind self-reflexivity in reading and returning the ubiquitous curious public gaze.

The panel of filmmakers received much cheer and applause from the audience for blurring these aspects of public and private through questions of intimacy and relationships, more so with remarkable sensitivity and humour, shedding conventional modes of addressing queer subjectivities.

Related topics

Open Frame Film Festival