Pink Shades at MAMI

India’s top film fest goes queer friendly with the first ever panel discussion on lesbian and gay portrayals in Indian cinema.

This year MAMI Mumbai International Film Festival screens three uniquely different queer-themed films and holds a panel discussion on gay & lesbian portrayals in new Indian cinema.

Gone are the days when a gay man was always a limp-wristed comic character who was ridiculed, shunned or beaten up. Even mainstream actors are not afraid to play out gay, lesbian, transgender character or situation. But do these characters have depth and detailing, or are they merely for a sensational spin? Where does censor become an impediment in depicting something meaningful and serious? And do they have an audience at all?

These are some of the questions that will be taken up for discussion at MAMI’s Open Forum on October 17th at 2pm – ‘Queering India: Gay & Lesbian portrayals in New Indian Cinema’, presented by IIFW in association with KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival. Speakers include young frontline filmmakers Tarun Mansukhani and Onir who have made films with gay themes ‘Dostana’ and ‘My Brother Nikhil’ respectively; award winning actor Rajit Kapur who plays a gay poet in yet-to-be-released film ‘Do Paise Ki Dhoop, Chaar Aane Ki Baarish’; fire-brand critic Rajeev Masand of TV show ‘Masand Ki Pasand’ fame; and Sridhar Rangayan, gay activist and filmmaker of off-beat gay films ‘Gulabi Aaina’ and ‘Yours Emotionally’. The discussion will be moderated by Meenakshi Shedde, well-known film critic who has served on jury of international film festivals like Locarno and Berlinale.

Though MAMI has in the past programmed queer themed films like ‘The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela’ and ‘Undertow’, this is the first time there will be an open discussion on the topic. “We are happy about this possibility to discuss gay & lesbian portrayals at a mainstream platform like MAMI”, says Rangayan who is also the festival director of KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, “Kashish has always believed in mainstreaming queer visibility and forming associations that go beyond the four days of our festival.”

The highly successful 2nd edition of KASHISH film festival was held at the same venue Cinemax Versova in May 2011 and screened 124 queer films from 23 countries to over 6000 audience footfall. Apart from co-organizing the panel discussion, KASHISH will also help promote the queer themed films that will be screened this year at MAMI through its social networking sites and LGBT community channels.

The panel discussion will be followed by screening of the Norwegian film ‘Mountain’ about a lesbian couple on a hike through a snow-covered, starkly beautiful mountain; who have to rediscover their love and rebuild their relationship after a traumatic experience in the past. Director Ole Giæver, who has won several awards for his short films, contrasts still shots of the dark and forbidding mountain scenery with extreme hand-held close-ups of the women’s faces and elicits utterly authentic performances from the two leads.

In the Swedish film ‘She Monkeys’, when talented teen gymnast Emma meets the slightly older Cassandra, they initiate a relationship filled with physical and psychological challenges. Lines are crossed and the stakes get higher and higher. Despite this, Emma can’t resist the intoxicating feeling of total control. First time director Aschan’s provocative visual language links pleasure and pain as she focuses on the arousing nature of unpleasant things and elicits convincing, naturalistic performances from her young non-pro actors. The film has won the Best Narrative Feature at Tribeca Film Festival and Crystal Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Both these films, by first time directors, compete for cash awards at MAMI amounting to USD 200,000 in the International Competition category for first film of directors.

The French film ‘Tomboy’, is about a 10 year old tomboy Laure who pretends to be a boy Michael when she arrives in a new neighborhood. Things get complicated when the pretty girl Lisa becomes attracted to Laure/Michael. Truth or dare? This Teddy Jury Award winner for best queer film at this year’s Berlin International Film festival, screens under MAMI’s 4th Rendezvous with French Cinema programme.

“MAMI and KASHISH share a common vision to promote excellent cinema. MAMI’s Chairman Shyam Benegal is also KASHISH’s Festival Patron. MAMI has always been liberal and progressive and programmed the best of international cinema. This year, we are only turning the pink spotlight on it!” says Rangayan.

Queer Calender at MAMI

? Panel Discussion: ‘Queering India: Gay & Lesbian portrayals in New Indian Cinema’
Monday Oct 17th 2pm opposite Screen 1, Cinemax Versova

? Film Screening: Mountain (Fjellet)
Dir.: Ole Giæver (Norway / 2011 / Col. / 73′)
Monday Oct 17th 3.30pm at Screen 1, Cinemax Versova
Wednesday Oct 19th 5.30pm at Screen 1 Cinemax Sion

? Film Screening: She Monkeys (Apflickorna)
Dir.: Lisa Aschan (Sweden / 2011 / Col. / 84′)
Monday Oct 15th 12.30pm at Screen 3, Cinemax Versova
Wednesday Oct 19th 12.45pm at Screen 4 Metro

? Film Screening: Tomboy
Dir.: Céline Sciamma (France / 2011 / Col. / 81′)
Thursday Oct 20th 12.45 pm at Screen 4 Cinemax Versova

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