This year Chennai has not one, but two LGBT film-festivals, spaced a month apart. Collectively, the organizers hope to offer Chennai audiences a bonanza of at least twice as much content as in 2012.
Chennai Dost, a support group for LGBTs in Chennai, in collaboration with Alliance Française de Madras, is organizing Chennai Rainbow (LGBT) Film Festival 2013 from 7th– 9th June. The theme of Chennai Rainbow Film Festival this year is “Pride Sans Prejudice” and it aims to reach a wide spectrum of audience, cutting across the class difference and providing a platform where everyone can come together with pride sans prejudice to celebrate diversity. The film festival will screen LGBT themed short-films, documentaries, feature-length films, paintings, photographs and a panel discussion.
Just a month later, Orinam- an LGBT and ally group that has been working since 2003 to create social, support and cultural spaces for the community; and to enhance public awareness and understanding of LGBT issues- is organizing Reel Desires: Chennai International Queer Film Festival 2013. The festival is being held from July 11 to 13, 2013, in partnership with Goethe Institute/ Max Mueller Bhavan, the German cultural center in Chennai.
Reel Desires is the latest in the series of queer-themed film-festivals that have been organized in Chennai over the past decade. In November 2004, volunteers of Orinam (then called MP) helped SAATHII and Alliance Francaise of Madras curate the city’s first gender-sexuality film festival. A highlight of that festival was the screening of the Bengali docu-drama ‘Piku Bhalo Acchey’ (Piku is Fine) followed by a Q&A with Kolkata-based director Dr Tirthankar Guha Thakurta who had been invited to Chennai for the festival. That event triggered tremendous interest among the city’s emerging queer communities in film, and set the stage for subsequent queer film festivals in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2012; as well as inclusion of films with queer content in mainstream film festivals.
This July, Orinam and co-organizing groups hope to use the interest generated by Reel Desires to raise awareness and discussion of issues impacting the LGBT community; and to lend visibility to locally available resources for sensitization, peer-support, and crisis intervention. Focus areas to be addressed as part of Reel Desires 2013 will include the need for stigma-free inclusion of LGBT people within our families, educational institutions, healthcare facilities, workplaces and the media/film industry. Bundled with the film festival will be a panel discussion on workplace diversity, featuring representatives of local and multinational companies that have implemented LGBT-friendly policies for staff recruitment and retention. Submissions have already been received from countries covering most continents, and the review/selection process is ongoing, with a 12-member panel of volunteers (LGB, trans and straight).