“Mainstream film fraternity should address the life and issues affecting members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Ally community.”
Those who turned up at the Kerala Museum in Kochi on Saturday to participate in the Q-Loid, the first-ever queer film festival to be held in Kerala, were all ears when popular Malayalam actor Rima Kallingal shared her thoughts on gender representation in Malayalam cinema. “But it is much more beautiful when they themselves narrate their stories,” Rima said, while praising the efforts to organise an exclusive film festival for the LGBTQ+ community.
Q-Loid was organised by Queerala, a Kochi-based collective working for the LGBTQ+ community, in association with the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) and the Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT). As many as nine movies, including documentaries and short films that discussed the issues affecting the community, were screened in the one-day festival.
Jijo Kuriakose, founder-member of Queerala, told Onmanorama that the festival provided a platform for the members of the LGBTQ+ community to express their views, life experiences and dreams. “Many people from the community work in the film industry, but their stories have seldom been showcased,” he said.
The festival opened with 'Ennodoppam' (By my side), a documentary directed by P Abhijith that dwells on the lives of three transgenders. Miya, a trans-woman featured in the documentary, watched the screening alongwith her parents. “I broke into tears watching my life on screen. It was both overwhelming and fascinating at the same time,” she said.
'Njan Sanjo,' another documentary screened at the fest, too won appreciation of the crowd. Directed by Jijo Kuriakose, it is a free-wheeling monologue of a trans-man. It shows Sanjo, the protagonist, as a complete human being with independent thoughts, ideology, vision and dreams.
'Oruvanukku Oruthi' by Vimal Sanitagu, 'May' by Harold Antony, and 'Ladies and Gentlewomen' by Malini Jeevarathinam were the other movies screened at the festival.
LGBTQ+ rights activist Chinju Aswathy, who inaugurated the event, said the festival marked the community's fight to make its presence felt in art and cinema. “I had a past when I used to think that I had a psychological problem. I used to think like a man while living in a female body. From there, I reached a position to address a large group of like-minded people. This journey needs to be recorded in all realms of art,” she said. Chinju Aswathy was the first intersex person to contest in Indian parliament elections, in 2019.
'Gender is a myth'
A panel discussion on the 'redefining masculinities: the myth of Malayali hetero-normative machismo', featuring Vihaan Peethambar, Yakob Thomas, Asha Achy Joseph and Jijo Kuriakose was held on the sidelines of the festival. It threw light on the pressure assigned gender roles exert on people. Asha Achy Joseph said women in Kerala do not live a life of their own choice. “There are a number of models for femininity. Yet, Keralites are hesitant to accept a movie if the central is not a male,” she said.
Yakob Thomas said there is no such thing called gender. “Sex is fluid. It flows freely. Gender, on the other hand, is a myth,” he said. “Gender roles and gender-based physical attributes started dominating social life very recently. The gap between gender binary, as we see now, is a product of post colonialism of 20th century and the resultant nuclear family.”
Vihaan Peethambar felt that addressing a trans-person by their given name, or inquiring their birth identity is disrespectful. “There is no answer for the popular question 'who were you before?' We have been like this right from the beginning,” he said.