Films with Transgender focus win big at KASHISH 2023

The 14th edition of KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival which ended recently gave away cash awards worth Rs.6.50 lacs in 11 categories to winners across the globe; to filmmakers from Brazil, India, Iran, France, Portugal, UK and USA.

The highest award at the festival, the KASHISH QDrishti Film Grant 20223, went to Abu Sohel Khondekar, a trans filmmaker from Kolkata for their project Mehroon.

“Elektra Abundance, a character from the TV series Pose, frequently misunderstood and disliked for her relentless pursuit of her goals as a Trans Woman, once shared that she dares to reach for great things, even if they seem beyond her reach, so that other Trans individuals know if she could achieve what seems inconceivable to them now, then they could too. This quote resonates with me and has propelled me to this stage today. To all those struggling like me, I want you to know that you too can see dreams and believe that one day those dreams will come true,” said Abu Sohel Khondekar who will receive Rs.2.5lakh grant, sponsored by Lotus Visual Productions, to make the film.

While the French film Lie With Me by Olivier Peyon swept two awards – Best Narrative Feature and Best Screenplay, the Brazilian actress Kika Sena won the Best Performance for her role in the film Paloma.

“I can’t tell you how happy I’m for winning these awards. I was in Mumbai and Hyderabad more than 10 years ago for shooting a documentary on mathematics. So getting this prize feels like I’m back in your country. But more importantly, I’m happy about the award – because this film is about the pressure of society against homosexuals and transsexuals. Whether in France or in India, it is always a fight,” said Olivier Peyon, director and screenwriter of Lie With Me.

“We made this film in a country that leads the world ranking of murdering transgender and transvestite populations. With this in mind, Paloma swims against the tide of her own destiny, fighting bravely against the oppressions she suffers. I feel grateful for having helped to tell this story that has touched and won over many people in different cultures. Long live Brazilian cinema! Long live Paloma! Long live trans people and long life for them!” said Kika Sena, lead transgender actor of Paloma.


The three Indian awards – Best Indian Narrative Short, Riyad Wadia Award for Best Emerging Indian Filmmaker and Ismat Chughtai Award for Best Indian Woman Filmmaker were won by filmmakers Jayesh Apte, Preeti Kanungo & Sourav Yadav and Akansksha Sharma respectively.

“I am humbled and grateful to receive the award. It is an honor to be recognized among such talented and diverse filmmakers, and to have my work showcased at this esteemed festival. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the entire team behind the KASHISH Film Festival for creating a platform that celebrates and promotes the voices of the LGBTQ+ community. I am especially thankful to the jury for recognizing the importance of telling stories of marginalized communities. Lastly, I would like to acknowledge the incredible support of my cast and crew, without whom this achievement would not have been possible. Their dedication, hard work, and passion have been instrumental in bringing this story to life,” said Jayesh Apte, director of the film Shurpankha.

Malwa Khushanwas our first film, and we made it with lots of love. It was a great honor for us to see it well received by the audiences with loud cheers and get awarded by Riyad Wadia Award for Best Emerging Indian Filmmaker. It gives us a great boost. It reassures our faith in our capabilities as independent artists. We thoroughly enjoyed being part of the entire KASHISH Fest; it was a celebration of love, pride, and acceptance in the purest sense! And we were glad to be a part of it,” said Preeti Kanungo and Sourav Yadav, director duo of Malwa Kushan.

“I’m extremely honoured to have received the Ismat Chughtai Award for Best Indian Woman Filmmaker. I remember reading Ismat Chughtai’s work for the first time in my first year, when I was pursuing English Literature from Miranda House. I read her short story called Lihaf and I remember it striking a chord in me and I have been a fan of her work since then. So, to receive an award which is in her honour is something else. I remember we shot this short film during COVID time and went through many difficulties one after the other, yet our crew overcame all these challenges and managed to make our film. It feels really nice to have great people acknowledge our hard work,” said Akanksha Sharma, director of the film Road Blocked Ahead.

The Unity in Diversity awards for Best Feature and Best Short documentaries went to Mama Bears from USA and What it Means To Be from UK.

“I would like to thank the audiences, the programmers and the jury members for this award. Thank you especially to the people who are in the film, and the people whom I interviewed. I’m very very honoured to receive this Best Documentary Award,” said Daresha Kyi, director of the film Mama Bears.

What it Means To Be

“We are so excited and honoured to receive this award! Making this film has been a difficult journey and we are so happy to know people connected to Callie’s story. It makes us proud for fighting to finish the film despite the obstacles. So much of our lives as women, and in particular Callie’s life as a trans* woman, is focused around obtaining connection through times of tumult and disconnection. This project was the ultimate synthesis of this, showing how creative practice and authenticity can shine down like a light on any darkness, opening the path of the heart and showing the way to care about each other and about yourself. Thank you so much from all the team!” said Lea Luiz de Oliveira, director of What it Means To Be.

The Best International Narrative Short Award went to An Avocado Pit from Portugal while the Best Student Short Award went to Jouissance from Iran.

“Thank you so much for this award. I truly appreciate your openness to be touched by this film. Hoping that we can keep on trusting cinema to amplify our narratives, voices and hearts,” said Ary Zara, director of the film An Avocado Pit.

An Avocado Pit (Portugal)

“I am glad to be awarded in this category. I want to thank the jury members, and also the award partner Whistling Woods International. I want to dedicate this award to the entire cast & crew of this film, because it is a film made with a lot of effort and love from the entire crew,” said Sadeq Es-haqi , director of Jouissance.

The Jury Special Mentions went to Ek Jagah Apni directed by Ektara Collective (India) in the Narrative Feature category; Law of Love, directed by Barbora Chalupová (Czech Republic) in the Documentary Feature category; Bi The Way, directed by Amir Ovadia Steklov (Israel) in the Documentary Shorts category; Our Males & Females, directed by Ahmad Alyaseer (Jordan) in the International Narrative Shorts category; and Preeti Kanungo for her film Malwa Khushan (India) in the Ismat Chughtai Award for Best Indian Woman Filmmaker category.

The Jury members were Anup Soni, Jitin Hingorani & Lillete Dubey (Narrative Jury); Aanchal Kapur, Nandan Saxena & Shanti Bhushan Roy (Documentary Jury); Atika Chohan, Rucha Pathak & Samarth Mahajan (Student Shorts Jury); Nargis Wadia & Roy Wadia (Riyad Wadia Award Jury) and Ashish Sawhny (Ismat Chughtai Award Jury).

The Award Partners were Lotus Visual Productions, K.F.Patil Charitable Trust, Wadia Movietone, GagaOoLala, Whistling Woods International, KASHISH Arts Foundation, Abhay Kulkarni, Ashish Sawhny, Jerome Marrel and Renuka Shahane.