March 15 2016
The annual celebration of gay and other perspective cinema reaches a significant milestone in being 30 and features films from the sub-continent…
THERE are four films of South Asian interest in this year’s BFI Flare Festival.
The annual LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) focus strand from the British Film Institute (BFI), starts tomorrow (March 16-27) and includes the feature length, “Loev” from India, and “Ka Bodyscapes“, a US-Indian production.
We caught up director of “Loev”, Sudhanshu Saria, a one-time high flying US-based TV executive, who went back to India to make his film about the challenges (and dangers) of falling in love with another man.
There are also two shorter films, one from India and the other from Pakistan, respectively.
“I am Bonnie” from the former is about a child who is intersex and is brought up a girl and becomes something of a star in the ladies Bengal football team, but then after failing a routine sex test is identified as male and with it, there is an unfortunate downward trajectory.
The latter “Poshida” looks at the lives of ‘men’ and ‘women’ who live in the shadows and the margins of Pakistan, but maintain a dignity and poise that belies their vulnerability and fragility. It is described in the BFI Flare brochure, as “beautifully shot, poetic and sympathetic to the lives and struggles of the people it portrays” writes Jay Bernard.
The 99-minute “KA Bodyscapes”, looks at three people trying to negotiate the pitfalls of living in a highly conservative society.
Haris, a bohemian artist returns to Kerala, a small state almost at the tip of India’s west coast. Lover Vishnu is there but under the watchful eye of Haris’ uncle and their friend Sia, a young woman keen to break free of traditional shackles.
“KA Bodyscapes” reveals the bleakness and revels in the beauty of trying to live queer and feminist lives in a conservative society,” reveals Jason Barker in the BFI Flare brochure.
In “Loev”, hotshot Jai takes a few days out from a hectic business trip to Mumbai to hang out with old friend Sahil. The two explore the western ghats, gradually revealing more about themselves and their lives than would seem entirely necessary…
Made with a great deal of secrecy – homosexual relations have been outlawed again following a brief relaxation – the early response to “Loev” has been impressive and Michael Blyth in the brochure blurb, writes: “That it exists at all such is something to celebrate but that it is such a confident, compelling and emotionally rich piece of work is nothing short of extraordinary”.
Saria, who is currently at the famous SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas told us what compelled him to make this film.
A graduate of film school, Ithaca College in New York, he made a lot of shorts and then entered the industry but more on the business side, dealing with distribution and development.
This is his first film as a writer/director and was financed mostly privately. He quit his US TV exec job to return to India seven years ago to make this film.
He told www.asianculturevulture.com: “I wrote this film for my aunt and uncle, the couple I was living with when I first moved back to India. They are the nicest people with hearts of gold but they would make homophobic jokes without even realising it.
“Maybe when they see the film they will reconsider their understanding of this community. It’s just love.
“It looks different but all that’s superficial – the heart is merciless when it comes to its patrons, endlessly confusing and always complicated.
“But that’s love and it’s a rollercoaster everyone should have the privilege to get on!”
Perhaps, we shouldn’t delve too deeply as to what gave Saria the precise idea in the first place.
“Heartbreak,” he says baldly, responding to an email question about what inspired him to make it. “I had just failed in love and instead of going drinking with my buddies or a therapist, I started writing.
“I think I was able to be honest and vulnerable because I didn’t really think the film was ever going to get made.”
A little bit of crowdfunding helped get his 90-minute feature over the line but filming itself was not easy.
“Financiers and actors aren’t exactly dying to get involved in content like this, especially given the political climate in India right now.
“All indie films are complicated, but this one became more so because of the nature of its content.
“We didn’t want to invite any trouble or the attention of right wing groups, so we just kept the true nature of the story hidden.
“We would always tell people the film is about friendship – which is true and it gets us an easier ‘yes’ from location owners, rental houses and so on.”
Saria said: “Loev” will do the film circuit before it gets anywhere near India but wanted to make clear his is not an ‘issue’ or ‘campaign’ led film, it is on the face of it, a love story, just between two men.
The climate for such films in India is changing – “Aligarh” which came to the London Film Festival was backed by big Bollywood studio Eros and screened in India last month and can still be seen in the UK too, on a limited release. Based on a true incident, it was widely applauded and regarded highly by those trying to advance the cause of gay rights in India.
Saria commented: “Unlike ‘Aligarh‘, we are a very small film, with a first time director and no stars (‘Aligarh’ stars Manoj Bajpayee, a well-known actor on the indie circuit in India), so the chance of us vanishing without a trace is quite high.
“We are also not issue driven like them, ours is more of a simple love story. That said, we are so excited by what ‘Aligarh’ has done.
“To make and release a film with dignity and intelligence is always applause worthy.”
- ‘Loev’ screens Monday, March 21, 6.20pm; Wednesday, March 23, 8.40pm; and Friday, March 25, 3.50pm
- ‘KA Bodyscapes’ Thursday, March 17, 6.10pm; Friday, March 18, 8.20pm; Saturday, March 19, 12pm.
- ‘I am Bonnie’ (45min) and ‘Poshida’ (30min) screen together in a double bill
Saturday, March 19, 8.40pm; Sunday, March 20, 6.50pm; Wednesday, March 23, 6.40pm.
All screenings at the BFI Southbank, London SE18XT.