Stories about coming out of the closet perhaps make for the best cinema. However, they can be poignant since this is a very sensitive time for most LGBTI people. They seek the support of their family and friends and are afraid of getting ostracized when they come out. The damage of the fear, shame, and guilt that exist inside a closet are often reflected unknowingly in the external life of the individual. Yet in our cultures, some of the biggest hurdles of coming out are dealing with the family.
Capturing the issues around coming out, film critic and director of the New York Indian Film Festival Aseem Chhabra with Myna Mukherjee curator and director of Engendered, a trans national arts and human rights organization, have put together a mini-fest on the topic. “We have chosen films on gender and sexuality that spans the US and India. Even though each film is vastly different, they have a universal theme, coming out, which weaves them together,” says Mukherjee.
The first film, titled Lead with Love, a 35-minute documentary is based in the US is created as an advocacy tool to provide comfort and information to parents whose children have just come out to them as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans. The other film, Daaravatha – The Threshold, is a 30-minute film directed by Nishant Roy Bombarde, about the quest of a young boy exploring his gender identity. The third, film Maacher Jhol, directed by Abhishek Verma is a delightful animation that uses the metaphor of a Bengali fish dish to talk about sexuality.
“I really enjoyed Abhishek’s film so when I saw it in Mumbai at another festival. So, when Myna and I decided to curate this package, I immediately thought of showing his film,” says Chhabra who considers Verma as his ‘discovery.’ Verma is a Delhi-based filmmaker and he will be speaking about his process after the screening. “Abhishek’s film is being screened at the Amnesty Film Festival in France. I feel so vindicated since he had to quit his job to make this film. Both the movies by Nishant and Abhishek are award winning films, which is why I thought that there was all the more reason to show them,” says Chhabra.
Mukherjee comments that it is often hard to come across quality films being made on the subject of gender and sexuality. “This is because of issues around funding, distribution and sales. What is most fascinating is that many of the Indian films are made on the notion of home, but they usually do the rounds of the film festival circuit abroad and are not shown at home. The multiplexes usually don’t show most of these films. It is sad since the community here does not have access to them,” says Mukherjee. “Things are changing with Netflix and Amazon,” says Chhabra on a hopeful note.
“By curating festivals in America, Europe and Asia one brings about a better awareness of issues in India,” adds Chhabra who is curating a festival in Macau. Engendered too presents I View World International Film Festival at four venues in the Capital. “We were thinking of making it an annual event but because of the paucity of good cinema on the subject of human rights, we are doing a biennale festival now,” adds Mukherjee.