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An estimated 3-minute read

The Bangalore Queer Film Festival 2010

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 There is a moment that comes in your life, if you’re queer. It’s a moment of utter loneliness, when you realize that the world isn’t exactly designed for people like us. At this point, we scavenged. We took the novels we read and changed the pronouns of the protagonists. We saw films and changed the gender of the hero or heroine. We read between lines, we found spaces between cracks, we desperately looked at any gesture of affection : anything to know that  somewhere, in someone, there was a mirror to our reality, a name to our desire, or simply, a companion to our confusion.”

-          Gautam Bhan, “Because I Have a Voice”

A film-by-film account of the recently held Bangalore Queer Film Festival 2010, with its heady mix of documentaries, feature length films, and shorts wouldn’t quite do it justice. Instead,  I’ll get to the part where, for me, this 3 day affair of screenings, panel discussions, cultural performances, and a photography exhibition, transcended its film festival trappings, and became something bigger. When is a film festival not just a film festival ?  I was about to find out.

Noontime, on the second day, and the documentary feature, Edie and Thea : A Very Long Engagement was playing. This is  a disarming, moving story of a lesbian couple  finding their way through battles both personal and political, to finally come together in matrimony after a 42 year long relationship. As Edie and Thea exchanged their wedding vows on camera for us all to see, something quite wonderful happened. The audience in the Alliance Francaise auditorium, caught up in the onscreen celebration, cheered and applauded, even louder than the characters on screen : a heartwarming moment transcended the screen and enfolded the crowd in a wonderful shared experience.

Stories, Realities, about love, loss, hope, struggle, violence.  A night out cruising goes hilariously wrong – A near-broken marriage rights itself in an unpredictable manner    A chance encounter at an airport with metaphysical hues    a documentary tracing the unique, sexually diverse community of the Zapotec  Indians    a bleak, phantasmagoric short engaging with the stories (or rather, experiences) of a young actress and a hustler  - A brave, albeit amateurish Egyptian feature based on actual Human Rights Watch reports. And of course, “ A Single Man” – the BQFF event film . In a particularly enterprising move, the organizers tied up with PVR Pictures to position the festival as the premiere for  this Colin Firth starring Oscar nominated film. While I found the film curiously lacking in heart, it more than makes up in its looks. Designer Tom Ford’s directorial debut is an absolute stunner to look at : every frame is immaculately tailored,  art directed to perfection, the designer frames combining with a haunting score to  powerful effect.

Also on display were a double bill of panel discussions and cultural performances : first, a  panel discussion on the Naz Foundation case and its implications that gave the audience immensely entertaining food for thought, with Lawrence Liang drawing linkages between Plato’s Symposium and the “litigation on love” to compelling effect, and co-panelist Arvind Narrain detailing the challenges to the case before the Supreme Court, mining much laughter from the outrageously worded  petitions.  The second discussion focussing on  Queer Women’s Histories and Voices followed the next day, with the Bangalore-based panelists, Christy Raj and Sumathi talking about queer women and female-to-male transgender experiences in the city, while Apphia Kumar delivered an account of bisexual identities.

So when is a film festival not just a film festival ?

The Naz Foundation appeal stands listed for final arguments this month. Whether the appeal is allowed or not, we can be sure of one thing : Our fights will not be won just in the courtroom or the legislature. Our fights are in the spaces where people’s lives are directly impacted, in  spreading awareness, in furthering advocacy. Queer cinema is an important strategy both in increasing awareness and in ongoing advocacy efforts to bring the concerns  of queer people to the Indian public.

And, as an audience discovered during the 3 days of the Bangalore Queer Film Festival, it’s a wonderful mirror to our collective realities.




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