CHENNAI: The 12th Queer Film Festival in the city, ‘Reel Desires, Chennai International Queer Film Festival 2017’ is the only one of its kind in the country and is all set to wow audiences in the city this weekend. With 27 films, short films, documentaries and feature films shortlisted this year from across the globe, the festival aims to entertain and raise awareness about the LGBTQIA community.
“The LGBTQIA+ community is scattered. Through this film festival, we want to make people feel like they're part of something broader, through the medium of cinema,” says L Ramakrishnan, volunteer, Reel Desires, CIQFF 2017.
Films are an effective way to communicate issues to the society, particularly for the LGBTQIA+ community, which has been isolated, ignored and ostracised. “The kind of change possible through movies is unmatched by any walks, meetings or strikes we do. That’s the power of cinema,” says Malini Jeevarathnam, filmmaker and queer activist.
Her documentary Ladies and Gentlewomen, which has won three awards in different international film festivals, will be screened at the festival. “The labels of gender and sexuality have to be erased. In the case of women, suicide rates are quite high among the lesbian community...which is not known. I wanted to create awareness about that,” she adds.
This being the 12th queer film festival in Chennai, how do filmmakers feel about the city’s openness to such topics? “Chennai is not only conservative, it is feudal, casteist, classist, transphobic and its bigotry is obvious even in simple things like everyday newspaper classifieds and matrimonials,” says Leena Manimekalai, filmmaker.
Her film, Is it too much to Ask, has already had premieres in Japan and Korea and will have its Chennai premiere at Reel Desires. “I can't imagine a better space than this festival to launch the film,” she avers.
Reel Desires CIQFF 2017 is curated by various groups. So what's new this year? “Mainly, our commitment to ensure diversity of films, with special focus on issues for bisexual women. We also have a play, not directly linked to LGBTQIA but important nonetheless...it’s on manual scavenging,” says Ramakrishnan.
Besides films, Reel Desires will also feature a dance performance by Taejha Singh and a panel discussion on the topic ‘South of the Norm: LGBTIQA+ activism in southern India’.
Reel Desires: Chennai International Queer Film Festival runs from July 28-30. For details: http://www.ciqff.org