India Diaspora
Discussing gender, sexuality through a film festival
May 9, 2007 - 9:13:11 AM

New Delhi, May 9 - The Indian capital is set to host a film festival on 'gender and sexuality, identities and spaces' starting May 12, with works of several artistes from different parts of the world.

The four-day fest is being organised by the Public Service Broadcasting Trust -, a non-profit body promoting alternative and documentary filmmaking in India.

'It's a first as far as PSBT goes. We earlier had our 'Open Frame' festival, which focussed on documentary film, but not on any single theme,' a PSBT official told IANS.

'The response is very good. In our earlier festivals, we had a lot of workshops. Here, the focus is more on screenings and discussions,' he said.

The festival is being held at the India Habitat Centre and will see 17 Indian films among 44 being screened.

While one film comes from the Indian Diaspora, a couple of films are on Indian themes but made by foreign filmmakers. There are films from countries like New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, Zimbabwe, the US, Turkey, Pakistan and Israel.

Themes being tackled include cross-dressing, definitions of 'outsiders', coping as an 'intersex' individual, rape and lesbian issues.

There will also be panel discussions on subjects such as 'Interrogating Masculinities and Femininities', 'Healing from Abuse', 'Being Queer', and 'Exploring Traditions and Taboos'.

Sukanya Sen and Pawas Bisht's film 'A Body That Will Speak' looks at real women battling the fantasies around and within them.

Ambarien Al Qadar, Gazala Yasmin and Nihal's 'Who Can Speak of Men' is about middle class Muslim women in India who refuse to conform to feminine norms.

'Mirror, Mirror On the Wall: Who Am I After All' by Naina Kapur and Smita Bharti delves into a Ghaziabad girl's school and dilemmas about sexuality.

Two films - 'Delhi-Mumbai-Delhi' by Saba Dewan and Anish Patel's 'Fight to Dance' - address the issue of Mumbai dance-bar girls rendered jobless overnight.

Paromita Vohra's 'Morality TV and Loving Jihad' looks at the fear of love, the constant scrutiny and control of women's mobility and sexuality and a history of communal violence.

Umesh Bist's 30-minute 'Beyond Reflection' is a poignant journey with Tista Das, who finds her feminine soul trapped in the body of a man.

While 'A Presence In My Dream' by Priya Krishnaswamy is a personalised account of child abuse in modern urban India, 'On My Own Again' by Anupama Srinivasan focuses not just at child sexual abuse, but on the survivor.

T. Jayashree's 46-minute film 'Many People, Many Desires' cuts across class, gender, language and caste. It tells stories of gay, bisexual and lesbian people living in Bangalore.

Britain-based Pratibha Parmar's film 'Nina's Heavenly Delights' gets a South Asian premiere in Delhi. Here, Shah is a feisty young Indo-Scottish woman with an identity crisis.

'Beauty Parlour' comes from Mehreen Jabbar in Pakistan.

'Between The Lines: India's Third Gender' is by Thomas Wartmann of Germany. It follows photographer Anita Khemka as she sets out to explore the hidden hijra - subculture of Mumbai.

A 30-minute film by Madhureeta Anand called 'Laying Janaki to Rest' explores the symbolic relationship of Sita, wife of Hindu lord Ram, with the image of women in India.

'Blood On My Hands' by Surabhi Saral, Manak Matiyani and Anandana Kapur deals with how a woman's menstrual cycle, a marker of her fertility, renders her untouchable and subject to multiple taboos and regulations.

Beena Sarwar's 'Naheed's Story' records the struggle of Pakistan's finest exponent of Kathak to dance in Pakistan. It looks at a banned-dancer's life and Pakistan's little-recorded struggle for secularism, pluralism, freedom of expression and women's rights.

'Goodbye Mother', a 30-minute film by Joydeep Ghosh, takes us to the filmmaker's hometown to trace the changing pattern of motherhood through technology, gender power, psycho-social issues and the conflict between selfhood and motherhood.

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