Mi Ultimo Round wins Best Feature Film Award at KASHISH 2012

Chief Guest Anupam Kher at Closing CeremonyAnupam Kher gives away prizes, promises to sponsor Rs 50k for prize money next year

Chilean film My Last Round (Mi Ultimo Round) directed by Julio Jorquera Arriagada won the Best Feature Film Award at the 3rd Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival which concluded with star studded ceremony on Sunday May 27, 2012.

“Cinema has no boundaries,’” said Chief Guest Bollywood actor Anupam Kher who gave away the prize for the Best Film. Kher who had acted as one of the first gay men in Hindi cinema also announced that he would sponsor the prize money from next year of Rs 50,000. “Cinema is meant to break barriers and KASHISH is a wonderful attempt to provide a mainstream platform for the LGBT community which is relegated to the margins,” said Kher. Recalling his struggling years in Bollywood to make it big, Kher said that his contribution may not be big, “but if films can be made in zero budget, like I have seen in Kashish, then I would not be surprised if this amount can produce a blockbuster.”

‘My Last Round’ is a heartfelt story set in conservative Southern Chile is about a working class relationship between two men – a boxer and a kitchen assistant. Director Julio Jorquera Arriagada from Chile sent a message, “I am very happy to receive this news, that ‘My Last Round’ is a winner at your festival. I send a big hello from a distance. For me it is an honor to receive this award.”

Kher also gave away the prize for the Riyad Wadia Award for Best Emerging Indian Filmmaker, which went to The Night is Young (Raat Baki) directed by Pradipta Ray. Raat Baki deals with three persons – two queer and one straight – who look for love in the city.

Oscar winning sound designer of Slumdog Millionaire fame Resul Pookutty was the guest of honour on the closing day of Kashish. .”I started off working on small independent films and documentaries for several years before I got opportunity to work on big films like ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. The passion and spark of independent cinema is outstanding and films at Kashish exemplifies this spirit. I have worked on a few documentaries that dealt with LGBT topics and for me there is no difference in the way I deal with them. After all it is too a part of human experience,” said Resul Pookutty.

The jury comprised of actors Renuka Shahane, Parvin Dabas, Mona Ambegaonkar, theatre producer and actor Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal and author and film critic Mayank Shekhar. “Kashish was a wonderful experience – getting to see queer films from around the word. The message in the end was the same – love,” said Renuka Shahane. “Kashish is one of the best organised festivals and can compare to the best in India or around the world. The love and passion with which the festival is organised is laudable,” added Renuka Shahane. Actor Mona Ambegaonkar, said that she was impressed with the way that the festival had grown over the last three years. Agreed actor Parvin Dabas, “The quality of many of the films surprised us – especially their technical finesse and story lines. It was no longer queer cinema for us, only good cinema,” said Parvin Dabas.

The other films that won awards were: Let the Butterflies Fly (Chittegalu Haradali) directed by Gopal Menon won the Best Documentary Feature award; the American film Rites of Passage by Jeff Roy won a special Jury mention in the same category; Are We So Different (Amra Ki Etoi Bhinna) a film from Bangladesh directed by Lok Prakash won the Best Documentary Short Award, ‘Through The Window ( Me’ever La’chalon)’ by Chen from Israel won the Best International Narrative Short.

Award for Kashish Coffee Break Online Competition was won by local filmmaker Nakshatra’s short film ‘Logging Out’ and Kashish Poster design Contest was won by Vijayawada based student S.Ayyappa. Both these awards were given away by Resul Pookutty.

The jury decided not to award any prize in the Best Indian Narrative Short category. “The jury felt that though there were some good short films, they did not compare well with the calibre of international films,” said Renuka Shahane. “Some of the short films, though made with a lot of passion, seemed more like pamphlets,” said jury member Mayank Shekhar.

The Closing Night also included a graceful mujhra performance by Maya Jafer and a scintillating Kathak and Bollywood song performance by Yuvraaj Parashar and Kapil Sharma, actors from the film ‘Dunno Y… Na Jaane Kyon’.

The third edition of India’s biggest and only mainstream LGBT film festival was spread over five days from May 23-May 27, 2012 and screened 120 films from 30 countries. “Kashish was an overwhelming experience this year, with a record turnout of crowds. Audience is the king, they say, and the audience at Kashish truly appreciate good cinema,” said festival director Sridhar Rangayan. “We have succeeded in our aim to provide a mainstream platform for queer world cinema as well as Indian films made on queer themes. Queer films and filmmakers need no longer be on the margins, but is today mainstream,” added Rangayan.

“Queer films help us analyse our lives. They make us see that one doesn’t have to be a miserable gay man who dies alone, but can also live happily ever after. If we are able to instil that in our audiences, then we at Kashish have achieved our goal,” said festival co-director Pallav Patankar. He pointed out that while in in the first year in 2010, 90 per cent of the funding for Kashish came from UN agencies, in its third year this had reduced to 10 per cent, with 90 per cent of the funds coming from corporates. “This will help us achieve our long term goal of making this festival financially sustainable,” said Patankar.

Roy Wadia of the Heroes Project, which had sponsored the closing ceremony of KASHISH felt that the festival was a great LGBT community initiative. “At Heroes Project we have found that if one can bring people together through the medium of fun like Kashish, we can strengthen the community and spread more awareness on issues like HIV and discrimination against LGBT persons,” said Wadia.

Hollywood gay filmmaker Rob Williams who was the Filmmaker in Focus at KASHISH said that it was a tremendous honour for him. “I have been to a lot of queer film festivals around the world and they can learn something from the way Kashish is organised. It is wonderful. All my movies are about finding love, happiness and happily ever after and the response I have received from Mumbai is overwhelming,” said Rob Williams, who also screened a two minute scene from his forth coming movie The Men Next Door.