We’re going to the movies!

With the pandemic forcing us to stay indoors and making all major events go virtual, the physical launch of the I-View World, a global, Hybrid, human rights film festival, at the Cyber Hub in Gurugram came as a brave step towards getting back to normal life, albeit with all safety precautions in place.

The festival was curated by Engendered, a non-profit organisation dedicated to creating awareness around issues of gender, sexuality and marginalities and was launched on December 10, celebrated as the International Human Rights Day. The third edition of this 10-day festival (it wraps up on December 20) was packed with short films, documentaries and feature films from India, Pakistan, Canada, United Kingdom, Italy, Argentina, Sweden, Netherlands, Australia, Turkey/Syria, Iran and Thailand.

Show time

The festival kicked off with the screening of celebrated filmmaker Deepa Mehta’s Funny Boy, which is also Canada’s official entry to the Oscars 2021. Based on Shyam Selvadurai’s eponymous book, the film, about love, war, conflict and sexuality, is set amidst the background of Tamil oppression and resistance, and narrates the story of Arjie, who is exploring his sexuality and comes of age at a time when homosexuality was still illegal in Sri Lanka.

“Today, filmmakers all over the world are making films and telling stories that they are passionate about. And, what’s interesting is how technology has changed everything, including cinema. I still remember, one of the finest films I saw four years ago was a film called Tangerine, and it was completely made on the iPhone. This festival too is bringing world cinema to our homes with the help of an app where amazing films can be easily watched,” says Deepa, who was also bestowed with the Engendered Torch Bearer award at the festival.

“The one thing that these extraordinary times have brought is a sense of shared crisis across humanity, and while these times are challenging, there are all kinds of new possibilities that have emerged,” says Myna Mukherjee, founder and director of Engendered.

“We are able to reach out across the globe through these films, which are the perfect gateway to open up universal conversations around identity or marginalities, gender and sexuality, climate change, justice, class and caste and, oppression and migration in contemporary culture,” she adds.

The Engendered species

The red carpet opening was attended by filmmakers like Onir, known for films like My Brother Nikhil and I Am, who was also awarded the Engendered Spirit of Independent Cinema award, Faraz Arif Ansari, known for the short film Sisak and the upcoming Sheer Qorma, awarded with Artist of the Year award, filmmaker and producer Vivek Gomber, known for Court, Mumbai Calling and Sir, awarded with Creative Force of the Year award, actor Swara Bhasker, awarded Breakthrough Performance Award, actor Sayani Gupta, awarded Independent Actress of the Year award and actor Bani J awarded with Agent of Change Award. Actor Rajesh Tailang received the award for the award-winning Delhi Crime, which was bestowed with the Global Impact Award.

“The I-View Human rights film festival was the first film festival I attended after eight months. This celebration of cinema is so empowering, at times like these and I felt humbled to be honoured with an award for Independent Cinema, too,” says Onir,

Actor Swara too says how refreshing and empowering it is “to be part of a human rights film festival that focuses on issues of gender, sexuality and marginalised groups and individuals.”

She plays a Muslim lesbian in the film Sheer Qorma . “Platforms such as I-View are so essential in this day and age because they enable filmmakers and actors to continue chipping away at the patriarchy, while telling stories that will defy the status quo and, hopefully, create systemic changes in the near future,” Swara says.

While four films, Deepa Mehta’s Funny Boy, Rohena Gera’s Sir, Faraz Arif Ansari’s Sheer Qorma and Sarmad Khoosat’s Zindagi Tamasha, Pakistan’s entry to the Oscars and the festival closing film had physical screenings, a number of the other films were all available for free online screenings on the Plexigo App for the duration of the festival.

These included films like Nathan Grossman’s critically acclaimed documentary, I am Greta, which was the centrepiece presentation at the festival, From Durban To Tomorrow (2020), a documentary by Dylan Mohan Gray, Paula Hernández’s The Sleepwalkers, Argentinia’s official entry to the Oscars, Levan Akin’s, And Then We Danced, Sweden’s entry to the 2020 Oscars in the foreign film category, Arun Karthick’s Nasir, Bhaskar Hazarika’s Aamis, Vinod Kamble’s Kastoori, Deblina Majumder’s, If You Dare Desire and Ananth Narayan Mahadevan’s Bittersweet.

Commenting on whether his film Zindagi Tamasha, that talks about a patriarch whose single act of self-expression wrecks havoc on the lives of his immediate family in Lahore has a universal appeal, Sarmad Khoosat says: “I feel that all stories about human beings told with some level of empathy, have that appeal, if not entirely but in fragments or in some theme, there is always a connect and that makes art so universal.”

More than movies

Apart from the film screenings, several panel discussions on issues like women’s objectification in films to gender and violence to discussions over queer visual culture across regions were also held.

“By utilising the cinematic lens, we aimed at creating global awareness of issues that became heightened in the midst of a global pandemic,” says Myna as the festival draws to an end.

From HT Brunch, December 20, 2020

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