6th Edition of Longest Running Queer Film Festival in India Opens in Kolkata

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Still from the movie Surviving Sabu

When DIALOGUES was launched in 2007, Kolkata was already used to hosting diverse film and video festivals, covering different genres. There was a need, however, for a space to celebrate writers, directors and their work dealing with gay lesbian, bisexual, and transgender themes and issues, as it was largely absent. As Wieland Speck, filmmaker and head of the section “Panorama” of the Berlin International Film Festival (a selection from where is part of DIALOGUES), says, “Subcultures remain minorities – and they always need their own window. The opposition of normative culture around the world is still extreme.”

“This festival was visualised as a forum where this kind of cinema could be showcased and talked about,” says Malobika of Sappho for Equality, one of the co-organisers of the festival. Over the past five years the festival has showcased feature films, shorts, and videos from national and international filmmakers, typically highlighting major feature films of interest to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, simultaneously providing a much-needed venue for independent film and video from India and abroad on these themes. “In the brief history of this festival, we have had the opportunity to showcase many independent films from India and abroad. Independent film makers face enormous challenges to secure resources for making cinema that they believe in. The struggle becomes doubly difficult when the subject is queer oriented. That’s one aspect of the festival we would like to continue with,” says Anindya Hajra of Pratyay Gender Trust, one of the co-organisers of the festival.

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Sharmistha Sarker of Goethe Institut/ Max Mueller Bhavan Kolkata, adds, “It is heartening to see the festival able to generate growing interest even amongst established international film festivals such as Berlinale and Dresden Short Film festival – that, has together sent 14 shorts to this festival this year”

Partners of the Festival

Goethe-Institute /Max Mueller Bhavan Kolkata has been a partner and supported the festival ever since it’s beginning. There are short film selections from 2 major film festivals – Berlinale and Dresden Short Film Festival.  The Public Service Broadcasting Trust  (PSBT), India and the Ambassade De France En Inde [French Embassy in India] and German Films Service + Marketing GmbH are partners to the 6th edition of DIALOGUES. “We are very excited about the package of three award-winning documentaries, shorts and films that we are able to bring, as a result of this partnership,” says Hajra.

Intersecting issues with queer cinema  

This year, like last, DIALOGUES connects different streams of oppression through films that explore other subject areas bordering on gender/ sexuality. It includes the trailblazing ‘Izzatnagari ki Asabhya Betiyan’ by Nakul Singh Sawhney, which the brings forth the issue of  Khaps; those who oppose “self choice” marriages and deny young people the right to love. In ‘Izzatnagari ki Asabhya Betiyaan’, we have the stories of five young Jat women who dared to resist the Khap. These women take on take on the powerful Khaps and in the process confront “honour” crimes, injustice and social boycotts.

Then there is Sameera Jain’s ‘Mera Apna Sheher’ which asks whether there is a sense of belonging, of ownership of the city. Can a woman in the city, as she continuously negotiates the polarities of anxiety and comfort, be free?

Interesting debuts and award winning screenings

The opening film of the festival this year will be the World Premiere of debutant filmmaker Ayushman Mitra’s ‘Guide Gufraan’, a poignant tale of self-discovery. Says Mitra, “It is a god meets gay film”. Shot in guerrilla style film making with virtually no ‘permission to shoot in most of the areas the film is located’ it was made on money collected through sale of paintings made by the director and support from friends.

Sankhajit’s ‘Dui Dhuranir Galpo’ is also being premiered in India for the first time. ‘The film was made with my own money, as no one would come forward to support the making of this film as the subject was taboo’ says Sankhajit, and goes to add, “There were long periods, often months, when we could not shoot as there was no money”. However Dui Dhuranir Galpo’ was chosen as the opening film in the Copenhagen DOX Festival earlier in November and has already been accepted in upcoming film festivals in Berlin and Helsinki.

The festival this year includes both talked-about mainstream releases like Rituparno Ghosh’s ‘Chitrangada The Crowning Wish’ and the award winning 2010 film from IsraelEyes Wide Open’ by director Haim Tabakman’s that explores the conflict between sexual desire and religious obligation.

Onir’s National award winining ‘I Am’ a tapestry of four different stories woven together  will also be screened at DIALOGUES, connecting different tales of marginality.

Revival Screenings

1999 film by Ian Iqbal Rashid’s debut short film ‘Surviving  Sabu’ deservedly won him various industry accolades upon its release. Its sympathetic depiction of a strained relationship between a budding gay filmmaker and his conservative Muslim father, as they collaborate on a short film about the late Asian film star Sabu, is steered by exceptional performances by Suresh Oberoi and Navin Chowdry.

The acclaimed 1998 film, High Art, considered to be a classic movie exploring lesbian theme, which talks about the exploitative same-sex relationship between a journalist and a fashion photographer, is also a part of this festival.

Yun Suh’s documentary  ‘City of Borders’ (2009) goes to the heart of Jerusalem where an unusual symbol of unity — a gay bar — defies generations of segregation, violence and prejudice. This powerful documentary gives an intimate view of an underground community where people of opposing nationalities, religions and sexual orientations create an island of peace in a land divided by war.

The film festival opens on 23rd November at 6pm at Max Mueller Bhavan Goethe Institute Kolkata and will run till Nov 25th.

For the detailed schedule, click here