Garnering attention to the South Asian LGBTQ community
Bay Area South Asian Film Festival (BASAFF), which has hosted several film festivals of hand-picked films since its inception, became the first to bring a unique collection of South Asian LGBTQ+ short films to the San Francisco Bay Area, bringing open awareness about the LGBTQ+ diaspora within the growing South Asian community where homosexuality is still mentioned in hushed tones, if not entirely concealed. The short-film festival that it hosted on Sep 7 at the Cine Lounge in Fremont, certainly proved to be a positive step in an attempt to rally much-needed attention to this niche section of the population and bring it up to par. BASAFF aims to make the fringe South Asian queer films and filmmakers mainstream while celebrating the unique contributions of committed LGBTQ+ filmmakers and filmgoers to the history of art cinema.
For their debut film festival, BASAFF brought together a sampling of some of the current times’ best short Indian films in different languages. These are all stories of queer people shattering stereotypes in homophobic families. Rohan Parshuram Kanawade’s ‘U Ushacha’ (2019) is a subtle portrayal of sexual awakening, as well as how a naïve attraction can empower a woman to take control of her life, and make each day something to look forward to.. The next film, ‘Miss Man’ (2019), based on a real life incident close to director Tathagata Ghosh’s heart, is about Manob, who is shunned by his homophobic father for his sexuality and his lover for not being a woman. Manob finds himself travelling to the city for a sex change operation. The camera, often shifting in and out of focus against the light in the film, does justice to the doubts and conflicts in Manob’s mind. However, as he struggles with his identity, he faces challenges and questions he is not ready to confront. The seed for ‘Long Distance’ (2019) was sown during the Melbourne-based director, Anup Lokkur ’s own experience of little white lies spoken during his long-distance calls with his mother after he had chosen film-making against his family’s expectations. The phone chat in the film between Aauyushi, who has found her independence far away from home, and her conventional mother belies not only the physical distance between them, but also the tension caused by the disparity between her family’s expectations and reality.
It was only fitting that the LGBTQ+ film festival was hosted on the first anniversary of the breakthrough abolishment of Indian Penal Code article 377 that marked the decriminalization of homosexuality and gave equal constitutional status to homosexuals and prevented social ostracism.
The screening was followed by members of South Asian LGBTQ+ community taking a look at representation and inclusivity in Indian cinema with Narika, an organization that confronts domestic violence in South Asian American communities, and Trikone Bay Area, the oldest South Asian LGBTQ non-profit group, as their community partners. The event was well-attended, and among the audience were students from both Berkeley & Stanford universities. It was also a wonderful forum for social networking and cultural exchange for the rich and diverse South Asian community.