The fifth edition of Reel Desires: Chennai International Queer Film Festival (CIQFF), which begins tomorrow, is a three-day series of feature films, shorts and documentaries, showcasing sexuality and gender diversity issues.
“CIQFF is an all-volunteer and no corporate-sponsored event,” says one of the volunteers, L Ramakrishnan. This year’s edition will showcase 27 films, from 12 countries, selected from nearly 70 submissions, including shorts, documentaries and feature-length films.
“There are different sub-groups within the LGBT community, and we have tried and included all the sub-groups.And this year the highest submissions were from India, closely followed by Brazil,” says Ramakrishnan. He points out that there has been substantial representation in films that deal with lesbian and bi-sexual women. “ Ladies and Gentlewomen , a documentary by Malini Jeevarathnam from Tamil Nadu, and Abar Jodi Ichchha Karo (If you dare desire) by Debalina from Kolkata deal with this theme,” he says. Ladies and Gentlewomen , a documentary on women loving women in Tamil Nadu, has won accolades at the Norway Tamil Film Festival and the Pune International Queer Film Festival.
“My intention is to create awareness among the parents of lesbian women. It is a dialogue on the conspicuous silence regarding body politics and relationship, which is misrepresented as social stigma,” says Jeevarathnam, who has worked with director Pa. Ranjith in Madras and also in the pre-production of Kaala . “Gender and sexuality has always been an issue that our society has been dealing with. Honour killing and suicides of young women due to their sexuality has been in practice for many years, and their death was portrayed differently then. Later, they were worshipped as Kannideivangal or as Gramadeivangal . I touch upon the story of Paappathi and Karuppayee, two rural goddesses, and their story in my film,” says Malini.
Besides films, the festival will also feature a dance performance by Taejha Singh, and a panel discussion on LGBT activism in Southern India. “Members from the LGBT community will enact some scenes from Srijith Sundaram’s Manjal , a recently debuted play on the struggle to eradicate manual scavenging in India,” says Ramakrishnan.
The principal organisers of CIQFF 2017 are Orinam, a local collective that has been working since 2003 to end discrimination and provide social and support spaces for the LGBTIQA communities in Chennai, Goethe-Institut and several community groups and NGOs, including Nirangal, RIOV, SAATHII, and East-West Center for Counselling and Training.