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I AM all the way – looking back at the second year of the film fest that was held between May 25-May 29, 2011

Bollywood director Onir’s `I AM’ won the award for the Best Narrative Feature at the 2nd KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival. The closing ceremony of India’s biggest queer event was held at Cinemax-Versova, Andheri (West) on May 29, 2011.
Accepting the award, Onir said, ``Thank you KASHISH, this is a very special award for three reasons. This is the first time I am getting an award in Mumbai. Secondly, I am happy to receive this award from Sai-ji with whom I started my career and lastly my lovely cast is here to support me."
Juhi Chawla said, "It is lovely to be here. I wish KASHISH goes from strength to strength and scale to scale."
Rahul Bose who had been to the festival last year for the premiere of the film’s trailer, recalled the way the festival had started. ``The festival and me are on the margins, but when we have to be creative, it allows us to be more freer,’’ said Rahul Bose.
Sanjay Suri, who acts in the film and is also a producer thanked Kashish and the jury for selecting the film. ``The film wouldn’t have been possible without the contribution of 400 persons from across the world who send in money to finance the film. This award is dedicated those people.’’
Jury Chairperson Sai Paranjpye said the decision to award I AM was ``unanimous’’. The film was awarded for its ``truly kaleidoscopic vision of the human condition. The film narrates four diverse stories, which deal with a spectrum of topics including same-gender relationships. The quartet is a marvellous portrait of contemporary social concerns, in sum their impact being bold as well as beautiful,’’ she said while reading the citation.

Another ``I AM’’ won the special jury award at KASHISH. This was Sonal Gulati’s docufeature. The jury gave ``whole-hearted thumbs up for the film’s bold and frank accounts of young gay men and women dealing with family prejudices as well as understanding.’’

The Best Documentary Feature award went to David Weissman’s ``We Were Here’’ from the USA. The jury was won over by its ``in-depth realization - through personalized interviews and incisive reportage – of a heart wrenching chapter of history – the advent of AIDS in San Francisco of the 1970s-80s.’’

The Best Documentary Short Film award was won by Bill Brummel and Geoffrey Sharp from USA  for their film Bullied ``for a stark and disturbing trials and tribulations of a gay student facing ongoing torture and relentless bullying of his peers, to which school authorities seem to turn a blind eye to. His eventual triumph makes the film inspiring and edifying.’’

The Best International Narrative Short Film was awarded to ``Let The World Know About Me’’ by Marianna Giordano from Argentina `` for the film’s inventive blend of the musical idiom with a purposeful point to make, vis-à-vis the stepping out by a girl… from the by-now claustrophobic closet.
The Best Indian Narrative Short Film award was won by Amen, for its directors Ranadeep Bhattacharya and Judhajit Bagchi. The film won the award for ``the sensitive depiction of the little known aspect of same gender dating through websites; the film’s assertive conclusion, credible performances, and technical assurance.’’ As the winner, KASHISH will nominate `Amen’ for the Iris Prize in UK, which carries a cash prize of 25,000 pounds.
The first RIYAD WADIA AWARD FOR BEST EMERGING INDIAN FILMMAKER was won by Shumona Banerjee for ``the whimsical, witty and yet so wise’’ ‘Kusum – The Flower Bud, about a spunky transvestite’s bond with an eccentric professor. The award, which carries a cash prize of Rs 10,000 was instituted by the Wadia family, in memory of pioneering film maker Riyad Wadia, who made India’s first gay film ``BOMGay’’.
Another first at KASHISH was the KASHISH COFFEE BREAK AUDIENCE AWARD where 10 films were hosted online and voted by a global audience. The winner, decided by online votes was ``NOTHING HAPPENED by JULIA KOTS from USA.
The jury headed by noted filmmaker Sai Paranjpye, comprised film critic and filmmaker Khalid Mohamad, actress Shernaz Patel, actor Samir Soni and Indonesian film curator John Badalu.
``When we started Kashish last year, we never ever dreamt that it would grow to such a huge scale in just its second year. The number of people, the number of shows, the number of visiting filmmakers have been fantastic. KASHISH is as much about awareness and advocacy, as it is about entertainment and glamour,’’ said Festival Director Sridhar Rangayan, adding, ``KASHISH 2011 rocked.’’
``The second edition of KASHISH ends on an extremely motivating note, as despite having a much bigger theatre, there were house full shows, reflecting the thirst of the audiences for queer themed films. Next, year we will be back, bigger and bolder,’’ said Festival Director Vivek Anand.

Kashish 2011 that focuses on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender films was announced by Celina Jaitley, KASHISH's Festival Ambassador and Shyam Benegal, the Festival Patron.

We take a look at how the festival that was!

Opening Night

Filmmaker Sai Paranjpye and Bollywood actress and filmmaker Pooja Bhatt on Wednesday threw open the second edition of India's biggest LGBT event - Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival - in a star studded red carpet event at Cinemax Versova.
``Kashish has really taken root and can today loudly and proudly proclaim that it will be an annual event that will be part of the cultural life of Mumbai,'' said Sai Paranjpye, adding, ``People are getting used to the gay way of life.''
``Indian society is getting over its prudishness and is a far cry from the time that sex was not discussed and homosexuality was not even in the closet but brushed under the carpet,'' said Paranjpye. ``Film is the potent of all visual mediums and and films at Kashish should not just be restricted to the festival but also be available for general viewing,’’ she added.
``Let us have more forums like Kashish,'' said Pooja Bhatt as she exhorted the LGBT community to ``come out and speak out''.
``Why should you ask for equal rights - demand it, grab it,'' the actor-turned-director said.
Pooja Bhatt recalled the first film that she had produced - Tamanna, which was about a eunuch raising an abandoned girl child. ``I never imagined that the film would one day lead to a festival like this.’’
“If you are gay or lesbian, the most revolutionary thing is to step out of the closet. People only fear what they don't know. Festivals like these will in fact eliminate that fear. It will make people realise that you and me are the same."”, she said passionately.
Sai Paranjpye lit the traditional lamp to declare the five-day film festival open, while Pooja Bhatt released the festival catalogue.
The opening ceremony started with scintillating performances by Asif Ali Beg and UK-based singer and filmmaker Rikki Beadle-Blair.
``Kashish is a dream,'' said Sridhar Rangayan, Festival director. ``This year we have a huge collection of films from around the world and some stimulating panel discussions in store for the audiences. We have a bigger theatre this year and we want everyone to return every day to watch great queer films ''
Festival director Vivek Aanand said that the USP of KASHISH was ``thoda hatke''. ``This is an overwhelming moment and the opening night performances made me think that the streets of Castro and Sydney had been transported to Mumbai.''

It was an evening to remember as the city's queer community rubbed shoulders with the crème da la crème of Mumbai's social scene. Adman Alyque Padamsee, theatre actors Dolly Thakore and Mona Ambegaonkar, actress Suhasini Mulay and Kim Sharma, actor and Kashish jury member Samir Soni and Karan Mehra, filmmaker Vinta Nanda, playwright Mahesh Dattani and the gay Indian prince Manavendra Singh Gohil mingled with the audience.
The opening ceremony was followed by the screening of the opening movie of the festival – the internationally acclaimed ``Undertow’’ from Peru.

Day 2 -  The Rainbow Warriors

``Come out and speak out,'' actor turned producer director Pooja Bhatt's clarion call at the inauguration of KASHISH-2011 defined the second day of India's biggest queer film fest on Thursday.
Shorts featuring the grassroots fighting for their rightful place in society, docu-features and the `T’ in LGBT was the flavour of the day.
The highlight was the special package ``Boo To Bullying'' with films that dealt with the torment and harassment faced by gay teens growing up. This was followed by the first panel discussion of the festival ``Bullying and Homophobia in colleges and at the workplace''.
Festival director Sridhar Rangayan introduced the panel comprising of UK-based filmmakers Rikki Beadle-Blair and Georgette Okey, activist Harish Iyer and Sonal Giani.
The panel shared their personal experiences of bullying during their school days, discussing how most people being bullied may not even be aware that they are being bullied until it takes on a more severe form. This bulling takes on many forms from isolating a person to verbally abusing them as well as spreading rumours about a person, besides the distancing that most persons face, the panel members also expressed a singular experience in the lack of support they felt from ‘authority” figures.  
This theme was carried on to the feature film that followed - Beadle-Blair's `Fit', which used campy humour, dance and music for its sensitive portrayal of bullying in colleges and homophobia on campus. The movie was the result of a play that Beadle-Blair took to schools and colleges. ``I prefer homophobia is out in the open, so that we can deal with it, rather than brushing it under the carpet,'' said Beadle-Blair, who also showed off some Bollywood thumkas during the Q and A.
The festival also had an Italian connection – Adele Tulli’s `365 without 377’. The film features Beena, a lesbian woman, Pallav, a gay activist and Abheena, a transgendered activist, travelling through the city of Mumbai heading to the celebrations for the first anniversary of the historic Delhi High court verdict decriminalising homosexuality. A special moment was Abheena’s mother who had recently come to terms with her child’s trans-sexual identity and was present to watch the film.
At Alliance Francaise, the other venue of the festival, trans identities were in focus, with films that dealt with the lives of transgendered persons.

Day 3 – I AM
``Last year we premiered our trailer at Kashish, this year it is a proud moment for us to be here at KASHISH 2011 with I AM as the centre piece film,'' said director Onir. He was speaking while introducing his film to a housefull show at Cinemax-Versova on Thursday, the third day of India's biggest LGBT film festival.
Sanjay Suri, who was present with Onir, on his part thanked the 400 persons from across the world who had contributed to make the film. ``This film is a triumph of their belief in us,'' said Sanjay.
Thursday was also a day of films about dealing with loss, finding oneself and having a bit of fun while at it.
The day started off with a package of `Love Stories for Girls'' and ``Be with Me'' - eight short films dealing with the loss of a loved one.
The first of the Red Ribbon Package, presented by UNAIDS, UNDP and DKT India, was the Asian premiere of `We Were Here' - a cinematic tribute to the extraordinary resilience shown by the LGBT community of New York and San Francisco in the 80s and 90s in the face of the AIDS and the tragedy that it brought with it.
``This is my life, I live it every day and it is a tough battle,'' said Vivek Anand, festival director and CEO of Humsafar Trust, drawing parallels with the situation in India, where AIDS is an epidemic ``that shall not be named''.
`In India, gay people are fighting a battle to be accepted. If you are gay and HIV positive, you are fighting two battles,'' said Vivek.
According to Vivek, 15 % of gay men in India are HIV positive, but many are not accessing treatment, despite the availability of drugs, due to the stigma associated with it.
The statistics for the hijra community are more alarming; 49 % of transgendered persons - or one in every two transgendered person - is HIV positive. ``But they are not even allowed into the gates of hospitals to seek treatment. They fight a battle constantly'', said Vivek.
``Everyone says - but we don’t see HIV positive people around. That is because no one talks about it. There is a treatment programme. However, the doctors, health system is not sensitive to the needs of the community to help them access the drugs,'' said Vivek.
``I was deeply moved by the film”, said Festival director Sridhar Rangayan who had first seen the film at the Berlin International Film Festival.” In India people are still in denial. AIDS is an ever present threat and this is one of the reasons we wanted to get it for the festival to start a dialogue,'' said Sridhar.
After ratcheting up the emotions it was time to loosen your hair and chill down - with UK-based director Rikki Beadle-Blair's Kick Off about a gay football team followed by Hollywood director Q. Allan Brocka's Boy Culture.
Both Rikki Beadle-Blair and Q. Allan Brocka had flown down to Mumbai to be at KASHISH and introduce their films.
Day 4 -Family in Frame

``Had it not been ordained it would not have happened. There is a stamp of God on all that is,’’ a mother of a queer child quotes an Urdu couplet in Sonali Gulati’s I AM. For the first time, KASHISH dedicated a day for families and friends of LGBT persons – with a bouquet of films on their trial and tribulations while dealing with the coming out of their loved ones.

KASHISH 2011 on Friday, the fourth day of India’s biggest queer film festival, focussed on the `family’ with three passionate accounts of a F2M, a bisexual and a lesbian and their relationship with their parents. The films were Spiral Transition, Family in Frame and Gulati’s I AM.

This screening was followed by a Panel discussion on Parents of Queers. The panel comprised Ashok Row Kavi, Chitra Palekar, Mona Ambegaonkar and Roy Wadia.

``I knew since I was about 4 years old that I was gay. So I was never complexed about myself but I knew there would be problems with the world at large,’’ said Roy Wadia, brother of pioneering gay film maker the late Riyad Wadia. ``There is so much shame, denial, stigma on homosexuality in our society that many just don’t want to even search for a support system.’’
Speaking about his family, Wadia said, ``In spite of my gayness being so matter of fact for me, for my mother, there is still a big void I feel because my father never accepted it.’’ He, however, added, ``I would encourage everyone to be out. That’s the only way.’’
Chitra Palekar, whose daughter came out to her over a decade ago, said it opened up a whole new world opened up for her. ``The information she shared.. the conversations we have had and continue to have. Ours was a home where everything under the sun – absolutely everything -  was talked about. But from my daughter I realized that homosexuality was perhaps about the only topic never mentioned.’’
Chitra Palekar said parents probably take too much for granted from the moment our child is born.’’ She further said that parents too needed help to come to terms with their child’s sexuality. ``Parents too need a support system to help with learning to accept and embrace one’s children for what they are. I don’t know of other parents in the same situation as myself. I feel lonely today.’’

Actor Mona Ambegaonkar, who has performed in Ek Madhavbaug, about a mother learning of her son’s sexual orientation, said, ``Just as there is so much our parents don’t know about us, there is much we don’t know about them. Often it is only when we challenge them – our families – do we get surprised with the support we do find.’’

Mona questioned the brouhaha surrounding homosexuality. ``License to kill and kill indiscriminately seen in certain communities is far, far more shocking than whether one’s child is gay or not.’’

Gay activist and founder of Humsafar Trust Ashok Row Kavi, first chose to come out to his father. ``I could never have even thought of coming out to my mom; it was my father I came out to – you know, man-to-man talk.’’

Kavi, though, is concerned about the new generation. ``It’s frightening seeing the way many youngsters coming out to their parents these days, doing so without preparing the ground for their folks to deal with the new reality. Even today I’m not so sure you can in real India just hit parents with such information.’’

Kavi, added, ``The question of inheritance continues to be a powerful determining factor in India even today.’’

The day also showcased Q!Shorts – a package of four short films from the Q! Film Festival, Jakarta, curated by John Badalu, who is also a jury member of KASHISH 2011. As part of the spotlight on filmmaker, Q. Allan Brocka’s Eating Out 3: All You Can Eat, was screened.

KASHISH also celebrated Israel’s spirit of harmony by having its first major country focus on queer Israeli cinema, with the screening of seven films from that country.

At Alliance Francaise, the highlight of the day was the Red Ribbon Package, presented by UNAIDS and UNDP, that focussed on films that dealt with the stigma associated with HIV, whether it is in the sprawling city of Seattle (Heart Breaks Open) , or the conservative by lanes of Kolkata (Let There Be Light).

left direction
right direction
The Night Is Young (Raat Baaki)
Queens! Destiny of Dance
My Child Is Gay
Bollywood Beats
Breaking The Surface
Burnt Money
Family Khusreyan Di
Is It Just Me ?
The String (Le Fil)
Make The Yuletide Gay

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