[Guest Author : Zeba Siddiqui]
Let’s get this straight. I’m not gay. No, I’m not bi-sexual or bi-curious (if you don’t know what that means, it’s high time you did!) either. And yet, when I heard about a film festival on LGBTs happening around town, I was more than excited to attend. And I did.
Being arguably one of the largest such film festival to be held in our country, Kashish 2010 brought together Mumbai’s queer diaspora in a way hardly any other event has, before. From fashionistas and Page 3 celebs, to collegians and student filmmakers, they were all there and they all made their presence felt. And yes, most, if not all of the attendees, were queer. The percentage of non-queer attendees including me, I’m guessing, wouldn’t have accounted for any more than 5% of the lot. Well, for obvious reasons you might think. But is that really a good thing?
Most would argue, that since it was clearly a film festival for the queer community, why would it draw in any straight crowd? Well, I think the main thing that non-attendees failed to realize, is that the festival wasn’t so much ‘for’ the queer community as it was to ‘celebrate’ the community; to celebrate the existence of such a community as a part of our society and social mores, and for some, to even just acknowledge its existence. Although such events and festivals are primarily organised to bring the queer community together, they also to act a gateway for the non-queer community to be able to enter the queer zone and learn more about them, so that they are able to lose their prejudices and preconceived notions. This is how ignorance should be treated and eradicated.
For me the prime reason for attending the festival, I’ll admit, was because it was a ‘film’ festival. My love for this medium is what led me to this fest. I didn’t give two hoots about LGBT rights and related issues until a year ago. But in the past few months, I happened to watch some brilliant films on gays and lesbians, which opened my eyes to a whole new world! You might think that you don’t have to acknowledge their existence because it doesn’t concern you. But I don’t think I would have been as comfortable around my gay friends as I am now, if it weren’t for my knowledge about the community. I know of plenty of people, who are still ignorant about homosexuality and often shocked when introduced to gays. Especially in our country, if you look for one, you’ll find twenty such people! That’s why it’s necessary to know. Knowledge leads to familiarity, and once you’re familiar, you’re going to be comfortable! And that’s when films come into the picture. Films know no language barriers, therefore, they are the best possible way of educating people. And festivals like Kashish 2010 take this seriously. It’s a pity then, that most people opt to skip them.
The four-day festival which kicked-off on April 22nd, was a sort of celebration of brilliance in cinema itself, as it showcased over 100 exceptionally directed short films and documentaries contributed by national as well as international filmmakers and activists. Moreover, the various panel discussions provided a platform for the queer community to voice their opinions about their status and standing in the contemporary Indian scenario, and about the evolving scene. All in all, very insightful!
P.S.: The entry for the festival was absolutely free too, so if you missed it…you really did!