Curator NotE - IFFC 2020
What makes a film queer or when is a film considered to be queer?
Does having queer characters make a film queer or can a film be labelled queer when it defies cis-hetero-normativity?
American film critic and academic B Ruby Rich coined the term “New Queer Cinema” in 1992 to describe certain films that rejected hetero-normativity and evinced a politicised stand towards queer culture.
In India, we are in a time where the ‘mainstream’ film industry is largely insensitive towards queer narratives and lives. Positive queer representation and authentic queer representation are rare. Even the ones that seems to be good fall short in embracing the queer discourse that goes on in the margins of the society. Surprisingly, 2019 seems to be a year which was inclusive of certain queerness in the film industry. While some of these films were sensitive in handling queer characters they have largely been fitting queer characters into the heteronormative narrative. Swapping a character’s gender or sexuality in an seemingly ambiguous story might work for the moment but still excludes the reality of queer lives.
I am happy to announce the films that are lined up for the Queer Lens track of Independent Film Festival of Chennai (IFFC) 2020. The ten films are shortlisted from the 1367 films submitted to the Queer Lens track this year.
I present this carefully curated films that narrate stories of diverse persons from various parts of the world. What could a lesbian woman in today’s Tamil Nadu have in common with a lesbian woman from 1958 Wales? Or what could two non-binary persons from London and Taipei could possibly have in common? What does rejection mean to cis persons as opposed to trans persons. Do we have meaningful conversation across generation within the queer community? In all these different narratives where we try to find a voice, fight to survive, where does the stateless queer persons stand in our queer discourse? Where do people stand when ‘traditional’ desire does not play a role in their identity?
Desire is a major aspect in defining sexuality in the queer spectrum. Garima Kaul’s documentary Desire? (English, 2019, India) talks about being asexual in India, and the invisibilisation of the aro-ace community in our queer discourse.
When the state determines the legality of the people in the country, where do the already marginalised and in some cases criminalised queer persons feature in the discussion of nationhood and belonging? Savino Carbone’s documentary film LIBERTÀ (French/English, 2019, Italy) follows a lesbian woman from Nigeria and a gay man from Senegal who live as refugees in Bari, Italy.
Reghu Radhakrishnan’s Uravugal Thodarkathai (Tamil, 2019, India) is a tiny hope that Tamil cinema could handle queer narratives in a sensitive and non intrusive way. The film is discreet and that is one of the significant unspoken question the film raises.
How often do we picture or mean elderly persons when we say LGBT? Rachel Dax’s Time & Again (English, 2019, UK) set in Wales is a story about two lesbian women who meet again sixty years after their relationship break up.
When the world complains about the ever growing alphabet soup of the queer community; Gao Hong & Chang Chun-Yu’s Unnamed (Chinese/English, 2019, Taiwan) shows us that it isn’t as complicated as the world makes it to be. The film is about two teenagers in Taipei; Zhang Ya-Ting, who wants to break away from labels and categories and their friend Hong Jia-Hao with his basic gay problem.
Michael Achtman’s Orin & Anto (English, 2019, UK), shows us the generational shift within the queer community. Orin, a non-binary person and Anto, an older gay man, confront the queer generation gap. The film captures the tension between the woke younger queer persons and the ones who made the way and refuses to move away.
Alessio Di Cosimo and Juan Diego Puerta Lopez’s 35 [Temporary Number](Silent, 2019, Italy) is the story of Amanda, a South American trans woman living alone in a house in the Roman suburbs. 35 [Temporary Number] is a gripping story that exposes the violence and hatred trans women face in their houses and workplaces that are supposed to be safe.
Jamie Di Spirito’s Thrive (English, 2019, UK). The film strips naked the tragic truth of isolation and the fear of rejection within the gay community.
Sofía Jaeger’s XY (Spanish, 2018, Chile) is the story of a 20 years old Manuel. XY is also a tale of rejection and violence perpetuated on trans persons by loved ones.
Jordana Valerie Allen-Shim’s Gay as in Happy: A Queer Anti-Tragedy(English, 2020, Canada/US) is an experimental autoethnographical documentary about queer joy, resistance, and resilience in the face of abuse, trauma, and transphobia. It is also a big fuck you.
Each of these films narrate stories from different time, place and of different people. The lived experience and the collective trauma of the queer community is the only thread that connects each of these films, and each one of us. The films are closer to the queer culture and relevant to the over-lapping discussions that we have in the queer discourse today. I hope you all enjoy watching the films and further the discussion beyond the screening halls.
The Independent Film Festival of Chennai is on the 8th and 9th Feb 2020. Please visit iffchennai.com for more information.