7 Short Films from Reel Desires: Chennai International Queer Film Festival

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The 7th edition of Reel Desires: Chennai International Queer Film Festival was held from August 2-4, 2019. This year’s line-up consisted of 26 films from 12 countries, selected from nearly 120 submissions via a community-led review process. 

Here are 7 short films from CIQFF, that stood out for their uniqueness in throwing light on non-cliched queer issues like toxic masculinity or mental health or specially-abled queer people.

Pop Rox | 14 mins | Nate Trirund 

There are countless ways to express one’s love to your romantic partner. A letter, a hug, gifting favourite things, taking out for a dinner, or calling late night to chat endlessly. Choosing the right one is one hell of a baffling task.

All the more, when you are not 100% sure if the other person has similar feelings, but you have ran short of patience and hence decided to go for the P-ceremony. Proposal.

Jesse, a teenager girl is in love with her close friend, and has made an elaborate plan for the P-ceremony. But she gets an unexpected competitor, which she must fight for.

Cute. Sweet. Funny.

Three Centimetres | 9 mins |  Lara Zeidan 

THREE CENTIMETRES | TRAILER from Lara Zeidan on Vimeo.

Four women friends on a ferris wheel. All laughing and giggling, talking ‘stuff’. As they keep moving upwards, the fun and thrill increases. And then the wheel stops at the top. One of the four friends has news to tell.

Sharply written. Splendidly directed. Beautifully shot. Classic example of – ‘Show. Don’t tell.’

Winner of the coveted Iriz Prize 2018 & Berlin Film Festival Teddy Award 2018.

Megg – The Margin who migrate to the Center | 15 mins | Larissa Sanches

MEGG – A MARGEM QUE MIGRA PARA O CENTRO (TRAILER) from Beija Flor Filmes on Vimeo.

When the protagonist of the movie, Megg, says she is a ‘transvestite’, I had to quickly google this term. It translates to ‘cross-dresser’.

This is a short documentary about Megg, who is openly and unapologetically living a public life of a cross-dresser in Parana, Brazil. Nothing is told about Megg’s gender or sexual orientation, which is why I loved it more.

Does it matter? Should it matter? Can we simply accept human with all their layers and try not to validate/invalidate them?

Megg has admirably proved her worth by being the first openly cross-dresser in Brazil to have got a doctoral degree. And as if this was already less problematic, Megg is also a person of colour, thus she is been facing racism very blatantly from the society.

Her story gives so much inspiration to many ‘non-conforming’ youngsters, who have zero self-confidence and self-esteem inside them.

Acting Straight | 26 mins | Willem Timmers

Masculinity has a strong presence in both the worlds – non-queer as well as queer. In an appealing and thought-provoking interviews with a few gay men, this documentary tries to bring out the nuances of the toxic masculinity in the queer world.

Instead of being there for each other, we are being ‘catty’, and are irrationally engaged in creating (and deepening) the fissures within each other. Fissures of racism, casteism, classism, less-manly-more-feminine etc etc.

However this topic of discrimination vs personal choice is not a simple one, and has 50 shades of grey. Fancying someone, sexually, is such a deeply individualistic desire, that it is a tricky business to comment on.

The documentary brings out all the aspects related to toxic masculinity, and thus avoids being biased or preachy about it.

A Safe Person To Talk To | 19 mins | Navdeep Sharma

One thing that we all adult queer people would agree upon is, the lack of terminologies to identify oneself during the school days. Infact many of us, including myself, got to know about several of the queer terms in early 20s.

These queer labels, though not 100% perfect, still play an important role to identify one’s queerness and thus begin the journey to explore and understand oneself.

‘A Safe Person to Talk to’ is a documentary about a very rare and special school in New Delhi, which sensitizes the children about LGBT+ concepts.

It is centered around a queer teenager from this school, who acknowledges that the support she received from the school counsellor, and then later on by the entire school itself, was life-changing.

The documentary  emphasizes the point that more and more such “safe spaces” for the sexual minorities are needed, where they can be themselves and be accepted as themselves, with love and respect.

Sunny Boy | 42 mins | Sara Moralo

For many queer people in India, one fancy idea about our future is to move out and settle in a foreign country, where the government laws are pro-LGBT. ‘Sunny Boy’ is a documentary about one such person, Kumar, who is now in his late 30s.

He was born and brought up in India, and has been living in London for close to 10 years. It is a very honest, realistic portrayal of a queer person and hence relatable

Kumar very poignantly allows us to enter his personal life; he unapologetically shares stories of his kinky sexual explorations during his first 5 years in London. Now in his late 30s, his expectations from life are getting metamorphised. He openly admits how he misses the bond with his family at the cost of freedom of living the life of a gay man openly in London.

Through the life of Kumar, the documentary touches on various topics – sex positivity, immigrant issues among queer people, body shaming, religion and of course love.

Hands and Wings | 18mins | Sungbin Byun

The queer community is primarily identified by its sexual minority status. Very often than not, this white-washing results in unacknowleding other minority identities, in addition to the queerness, that a person carries. For instance – a person who is queer and lower caste; or queer and poor ; or queer and woman ; or queer and specially-abled.

Woo-Sung, a disabled guy is having a crush on another guy, whom he had met during a vacation. There is a photo-frame of both of them besides his bed.

Being horny, Woo-Sung is staring at the frame, and ‘trying’ to please himself. Unable to tolerate his unsuccessful attempt, his mother steps in to help him.

Hands and Wings is indeed an unsettling but sincere portrayal of queer people who are also disabled.

Loved the rawness and the intensity of the feelings showed in the movie.

Update: Short Film ‘Breathe’ was inadvertently included in a previous version of this article. The movie was not screened at Reel Desires. The error is regretted