KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival’s 12th edition will focus on Asian stories

The festival, which will be held online from August 19, will showcase LGBTQ+ films from Asia

In its first edition in 2010, KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival had some prominent guests, including Manisha Koirala, Rahul Bose, Zeenat Aman, and Shyam Benegal. But its size was fairly modest — just 110 films and a total cash prize of Rs 85,000. Its audience, too, was limited as the LGBTQ+ community in India wasn’t as big as it is today.

Since then, the festival has grown in popularity and stature. The 12th edition, which will take place online from August 19 to September 5, for instance, has received over 800 submissions and will exhibit over 220 films.The fest offers Rs 2,00,000 to emerging Indian filmmakers to make an LGBTQ+ themed short film. Filmmakers from Canada, Sweden, Belgium and other countries will also participate.

Festival director Sridhar Rangayan says the kind of films exhibited has changed too. “The audience’s taste has evolved. Earlier, they wanted romcoms predominantly. But now they want to see cinema that reflects different cultures,” he says, “Earlier, the films were more about people with anxious questions of their identities. Now, filmmakers, especially Indian directors, have gone beyond that to explore nuanced stories about romances, family acceptance and workplace acceptance. The stories have more hope and happiness.”

He reckons the decriminalisation of Section 377 has impacted the younger filmmakers. “A lot of them are not really anxious about their sexuality anymore. So, they focus on other things in their films, normalising the LGBTQ+ people.”

This is reflected in mainstream cinema, too. Recent Hindi films like Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, Geeli Pucchi (a short from Ajeeb Daastaans), and She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not (a short in Feels Like Ishq) explored homosexual romance.

But the representation is insufficient, according to Sridhar. “We also don’t see enough mainstream films made by queer people. We hope that more stars and producers support queer filmmakers making queer films. Queer filmmakers should have the opportunity and resources to tell their stories,” he says. This is why, he adds, festivals such as KASHISH are still relevant. “The films we show are not available on OTT platforms. They are made by independent filmmakers.”

This year’s fest will highlight LGBTQ+ films from Asia – with 39 films from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar, Iran, Lebanon, Turkey and Indonesia. It’s also the second year in a row that the fest is online.

“We wanted to do a physical Festival in May. But because the second wave hit us all badly, we had to reschedule it to August. We all usually gather at the beautiful Liberty Cinemas, which has 1200 seats. So, hearing 1200 laughs and claps — all that will be missed.”

But having it online has its advantages, he adds. “For the Q&A sessions, we were able to invite many prominent filmmakers, who might not have been able to travel to Mumbai. Going forward, I think it’ll always be a hybrid festival (online and offline) even when restrictions get lifted,” says Sridhar.

For registration and more information about the festival, visit mumbaiqueerfest.com

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