Mumbai: Kashish- Mumbai International Queer Film Festival – South Asia’s and India’s biggest LGBT film festival – returns for its fifth year with a large collection of 154 films from 31 countries.
India’s only mainstream lesbian, gay and transgender film festival and one of the first to receive clearance from the Union Ministry of Information & Broadcasting will take place between May 21 - May 25, 2014, at the iconic Liberty Cinema, New Marine Lines and Alliance Française de Bombay.
The festival’s theme this year is “Dare To Dream” and recognizes the progressive movements for equality and dignity for gay, lesbian and transgender persons across the world, including India. Kashish 2014 will highlight, reflect upon and celebrate the people, communities and movements that ‘Dare To Dream’.
KASHISH Jury this year comprises trailblazing actors and filmmakers with multiple National Film Awards between them. National award winning actor Sarika, filmmaker Onir whose film I Am won the National award in two categories, actor and former Member of Parliament Nitish Bharadwaj, costume designer Pia Benegal, actor Avantika Akerkar and Wadia Movietone director and LGBT rights activist Roy Wadia will judge the films in competition at the festival for the seven award categories.
“Equality is the foundation of a peaceful society and equal rights is what Kashish is all about,” said actor Nitish Bharadwaj, who is still remembered for his role a Krishna in B R Chopra’s Mahabharata, at a press conference on Wednesday to announce the festival.
"When I was asked that what I feel about LGBT community, I said that they are human beings just like me. The respect that I get they too should get. The day when Kashish no longer needs tags and labels, only then can we say equality has been achieved. One of the main reasons I agreed to be on the jury was the hunger as an artist to see and appreciate good cinema."
Pia Benegal said that she was delighted to be a part of the Kashish 2014 jury and watch LGBT cinema at its best.
"Kashish is as mainstream as its gets and offers a chance to watch good films,’’ said Pia Benegal.
Avanita Akerkar said that initially she had questions about the word ``queer’’ in the film festival’s name.
"I was told that there was nothing wrong with the word and was infact a way of appropriating words to empower," said Avantika Akerkar.
"It’s a great to see that Kashish will have 11 world premieres. I haven’t even seen this in many mainstream festivals and speaks volumes about the status that Kashish has achieved,’’ she said.
Sarika and Onir who could not be at the press conference due to shooting schedules sent messages of support.
“I am happy to be a part of the Kashish jury as I whole heartedly support equal rights," Sarika said in her message.
Onir said that Kashish offered a "great platform for seeing LGBT cinema and discuss issues about the community."
Acclaimed actor Anupam Kher and his acting school Actor Prepares sponsors cash awards for two winning categories - Best Narrative Feature film wins a cash award of Rs 30,000 and Best Indian Short films wins a cash prize of Rs 20,000. Best Actor in a Lead Role award has also been instituted by actor Anupam Kher and his acting school Actor Prepares.
The Riyad Wadia Emerging Indian Filmmaker, instituted by Wadia Movietone in memory of the India’s first gay filmmaker Riyad Wadia, carries a cash prize of Rs 15,000.
"This year`s Jury reflects once again the diversity and richness of professional experience that the Jury panel brings to Kashish every year," said Sridhar Rangayan, festival director.
"At a time when LGBT rights are under attack by powerful players in India and overseas, no doubt in response to the gains we have made in recent years, it`s more important than ever for Kashish and similar events to prosper," noted Roy Wadia, LGBT rights activist and Director of Wadia Movietone,
"Kashish sends a clear signal that our communities are going from strength to strength. Films are not only entertainment -- they chronicle our history, our struggles and our triumphs. Long may Kashish, and our communities, prosper." Wadia joins the jury to decide the winner of this category.
Vivek Anand, CEO of Humsafar Trust, the co organizer of the festival, said that the Supreme Court verdict on section 377 was a setback to the community. ``But there is no going back and events like Kashish is a way to show that things have changed, society’s attitudes are changing and there will be no going back,’’ said Vivek Anand.
Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival created history in April 2010 by holding the first ever queer film festival in India in a mainstream theatre and receive clearance from the Union Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. Since its debut in 2010, Kashish today is one of the biggest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) film festivals in India and South Asia. It is a landmark event, not only in the LGBTQ movement, but also an important annual event in Mumbai`s cultural calendar.
"Kashish has not only become a space for celebration and community building for the LGBT community, but also a window to LGBT lives for a large mainstream audience," said Sridhar Rangayan.
"The idea was to mainstream queer visibility - removing myths and misconceptions about Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender lives by showing their real aspirations, struggles, feelings, and highlighting that LGBT people are human beings with the same need for love and acceptance as anyone else. Kashish connects these dots through the medium of cinema," he added.
Key Highlights for this year will be:
* 154 films from 31 countries.
* 11 World, 17 International and 39 Asian premieres.
* New venue is India`s finest art deco theatre - the iconic Liberty Cinema with over 1,000 seating capacity.
* Crowd funding to raise part of the funds to put up the festival – the first film festival in India to do so.
* This year, the ‘Country Focus’ will be on Canada with more short and feature films including Winter Kept Us Warm (1965).
* `Filmmaker in Focus’ is Canadian actor Charlie David.
* Special focus on Transgender lives
* Films on HIV.
* Queer films from Turkey, Srilanka, Uganda, Bangladesh will be screened at KASHISH 2014.
* The ``competition section’’ will showcase films which will be judged by an eminent jury panel.
* Acclaimed Bollywood actor Anupam Kher and his acting school Actor Prepares sponsors cash awards for two winning categories - Best Narrative Feature film wins a cash award of Rs 30,000 and Best Indian Short films wins a cash prize of Rs 20,000.
* Best Actor in a Lead Role award instituted this year by Bollywood actor Anupam Kher and his acting school Actor Prepares.
* Riyad Wadia Emerging Indian Filmmaker, instituted by Wadia Movietone in memory of the India’s first gay filmmaker Riyad Wadia, carries a cash prize of Rs 15,000.
* Other awards are Best Documentary Feature, Best Documentary Shorts and Best International Narrative Shorts
* Opening Film Out In The Dark from Israel and Palestine.
* Closing Film is John Apple Jack from Canada
* Tribute to late filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh and screening of the movie Memories in March.
* Indian Showcase: 28 films from India - some in regional languages including films in Marathi and Bengali.
* The Best Indian queer short film at Kashish gets to compete for the Iris Prize in UK which carries a cash prize of 25,000 pounds.