Three years ago, when filmmaker Sridhar Rangayan conceived KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film festival, his intention was to give a platform to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community to reach out to the world, showcase their best feature films, short films and documentaries and initiate them into mainstream society. Over a period of time, KASHISH has managed to make its mark as an important event in Mumbai’s cultural calendar attracting people from the LGBT community and movie aficionados alike.
This week, the festival, which celebrates its fourth year, will screen 132 films from across 40 countries including Iran, Serbia, Slovakia, Pakistan and Morocco. The five-day event’s theme is Towards Change and China will be the country in focus with more than 12 of its films to be showcased.
Festival director, Rangayan, says, “We chose Towards Change as the theme as the LGBT landscape is transforming rapidly in all countries. While in India youngsters are coming out of the closet and pride marches are being held, that is not the case in other nations such as Iran and Pakistan. Even developed countries like America and England have a long way to go before members of the community are treated with equal dignity. It’s not easy to be gay or a transgender. Through cinema, we want to show the real state of the community across the globe.”
A panel comprising filmmakers, writers, healthcare professionals and members from the LGBT community selected the movies for screening from over 300 entries. Rangayan says, “The criteria for selecting the films were the movies’ topicality, sensitive portrayal of the community and how well produced the films were. We also sensed a change in the audience’s needs. Earlier they wanted to see romantic comedies. But now they crave to see quality films that provide a cinematic experience.”
He explains that he was prompted to choose China as the country in focus after he realised the wide variety of movies that were being made in the country despite lack of support and recognition from the government. Rangayan says, “In 2011, I attended the Beijing Queer Film Festival as a guest.
The government clamped down the screenings but the organisers managed to conduct the event in a secret location. Young Chinese filmmakers are breaking grounds consistently. In fact, two Chinese films — Mamma Rainbow that features the mothers of eight LGBT children narrating their experiences and Speechless, which was shot underground — are much-watch movies at the festival.”
While Rangayan is happy with the movies lineup at KASHISH, he admits that organising the event is replete with challenges. “Though we have been funded by banks and other financial institutions, very few companies are willing to walk the extra mile to support us. In the future, we want to reach out to prominent brands. Also, we need to have more support from celebrated actors and filmmakers as that will help us broaden our reach,” he signs off.