2nd Mumbai International Queer Film Festival
May 25-29, 2011


Background – KASHISH 2010

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender persons in India are still stigmatized, discriminated and victimized because of the prevailing taboos and social ostracizing of these sexual minorities. It is a gross violation of human rights and denial of the basic rights to love and live as equals with dignity.

Things are slowly changing with call for equal rights becoming more and more strident, propelled further by the historic verdict on July 2nd 2009 by Delhi High Court which decriminalized consensual homosexual acts in privacy after two decades of legal battle. From then on, there has been a burst of activities across India, especially in the metros, which aim to highlight and hold a dialogue about LGBT issues.

However there is still not many avenues for screening of queer themed films in mainstream spaces where not only queer persons, but the mainstream audience too can attend and watch queer-themed films from India and the worldover. That's the reason it becomes all the more important to organize film festivals that are dedicated to LGBT content so that not only queer audiences get a chance to see Indian and international queer films, but mainstream audiences too get a chance to see queer themed films and possibly form a better understanding of LGBT persons.

The first edition of KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival in 2010 was one such initiative which turned out to be a milestone event in LGBT movement in India.

It was the first ever queer film festival in India to be held in a mainstream theatre - PVR Cinemas. It was also the first queer film festival in India to apply for and obtain an exemption from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the first ever queer film festival in India to have competitive categories and cash awards.

During its four days, the film festival drew an unprecedented audience turnout of over 1200 people who came to watch 110 films from 25 countries. The festival was supported by a host of Bollywood celebrities and media professionals. There was coverage in more than 200 news sites, ezines and blogs with exclusive spreads in several mainstream newspapers in India as well as leading international newspapers.

The panel discussions and interaction with filmmakers and resource persons highlighted several issues related to LGBT community. This not only mainstreamed queer visibility, but also presumably empowered the LGBT persons.

KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival 2010 was organized by Solaris Pictures and Bombay Dost in association with The Humsafar Trust. It was supported by UNDP (India), UNAIDS (India) and Movies That Matter (Netherlands).

Taking this successful initiative forward next year, KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival 2011 was BIGGER, BOLDER & QUEERER.

KASHISH 2011 Highlights

1) KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival 2011was organized between May 25 – 29, 2011 in Mumbai

2) The film festival was held simultaneously at two venues – Cinemax, Versova, a mainstream cinema multiplex in North Mumbai and Alliance Francaise in South Mumbai. This year the multiplex hall capacity was 230 seats as against 113 last year.

3) 755 delegates registered before the festival and 262 registered at the venues. A total of 1017 registered delegates. The festival saw an average of 67.5% seating turnout with a staggering 6225 number of tickets issued. There were 15 housefull shows.

4) The pre-festival press conference was flagged off by national award winning director Mr. Shyam Benegal, who is the Festival Patron, popular Bollywood actress Celina Jaitley who is the Festival Ambassador, national award winning filmmaker Ms. Sai Paranjpye, chairperson of this year's jury festival and two other jury members Mr. Khalid Mohamed and Mr. Samir Soni.

5) This year's festival for the first time featured songs & performances by Rikki Beadle-Blair (from UK) and Asif Ali Baig (from Mumbai) at the Opening Night Gala which was followed by the Opening Night film 'Undertow' by Javier Fuentes-Le๓n.

6) The festival screened 124 films from 23 countries over five days at two venues in 51 program slots. The programming consisted of 18 narrative features, 7 documentary features and 98 shorts.

7) Out of the 124 films - USA had the largest presence with 56 films and India was next with 20 films.

8) Special sections included: 'Filmmaker in Focus – Q. Allan Brocka', 'Spotlight on Filmmaker – Rikki Beadle-Blair', 'Retrospective Package – Films of Jenni Olson', 'Country Focus–Israel', 'Red Ribbon Packages–films on HIV/AIDS' and 'Indian Masala Mix'

9) For the first time the festival hosted four International guests – Q. Allan Brocka from USA, Rikki Beadle-Blair & Georgette Okey from UK and John Badalu from Indonesia.

10) More than 25 Indian filmmakers participated from Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata.

11) A unique and path breaking feature was the installation of two giant hoardings at prominent places in Mumbai announcing KASHISH. This was the first ever time an LGBT event had a public hoarding, a great effort at mainstreaming queer visibility. The hoardings were sponsored by Time Out Mumbai who also sponsored couple of advertisements in newspaper and two television spots on VH1 channel.

12) Two panel discussions – 'Boo to Bullying' and 'Parents of Queers' featured eminent panelists comprising of Rikki Beadle-Blair (UK), Georgette Okey (UK), Chitra Palekar, Ashok Row Kavi, Roy Wadia, Mona Ambegaonkar, alongwith young queer activists Parmesh Shahani, Harish Iyer & Sonal Giani.

13) The five member International Jury consisted of Ms. Sai Paranjpye – National Award Winning Filmmaker & Writer, Mr. Khalid Mohamed – renowned Filmmaker & Critic, Ms. Shernaz Patel - award winning Actress & Theater personality, Mr. Samir Soni – popular Hindi film Actor and Mr.John Badalu - Curator and Producer from Indonesia.

14) Awards were given to Best Narrative Feature, Best Documentary Feature, Best International Narrative Short, Best Indian Narrative Short and a new award was instigated in the memory of first Indian Queer Filmmaker - Riyad Wadia for the Best Emerging Indian Filmmaker was instituted with a cash prize of Rs.10,000.

15) A new feature this year was the KASHISH Coffee Break Online competition presented by Indieflix, a US film distribution platform. 10 films from all over the world under 10mins competed for the award that was decided by online voting and ratings. The winner received a trophy and distribution deal from Indieflix.

16) The Closing Night film was 'Three Veils' (from USA) which followed the glittering award ceremony attended by popular Bollywood actors Juhi Chawla, Rahul Bose, Arjun Mathur, Karan Mehra, Jitin Gulati and filmmaker Onir.

17) Host of celebrities - Actors, Actresses, Directors, Playwrights, Theater Personalities, Festival Curators, Academicians – participated in the festival and lent their experience, expertise and glamour quotient to the festival. This also resulted in extensive media coverage.

Number of visitors and background of the visitors

This year the seating capacity was increased from 113+70 (at two venues) to 230+70 this year.

755 delegates registered before the festival and 262 registered at the venues. A total of 1017 registered delegates. The festival saw an average of 67.5% seating turnout with a staggering 6225 number of tickets issued. There were 15 housefull shows. This is by far the largest audience turnout at a queer film festival in India. The multiplex told us that this was one of the biggest turnout ever at a film festival in their venue.

Only 31% had attended the previous edition of KASHISH IN 2010. Which means the festival reached out to 69% new audience.

Out of the people who attended Kashish last year too, an amazing 82.5% felt that this year's Kashish was a more enjoyable experience and 16.5% felt it was a similar experience. Not even a single person said it was less enjoyable than last year!

About 17% were students and about 73% were either employed or self-employed. About 91% were either graduate, post-graduate or held a doctorate degree.

68.5% identified themselves as belonging to LGBT community with 34% identifying themselves as non-queer, which last year was 27%. Hence KASHISH 2011 presumably reached out to wider mainstream population.

(Detailed charts from Page 35 onwards)

Reactions of visitors about the festival

The overall reaction has been extremely positive. 94% rated the organization of the festival as excellent or good and 100% were satisfied with the multiplex venue. About 91% rated the hospitality as excellent or good and 91% rated the helpfulness of volunteers as excellent or good.

79% mentioned that the mix of films as a good representative of queer diversity and about 75% preferred Features (narrative and docu) over Shorts. 50% of the audience watched 10-30 films at the festival and about 25% watched 5-10 films.

Reactions of Jury & Guests:

All minorities in this country need representation and sexual minorities is one of them. KASHISH is a move in the right direction to create awareness through the medium of films. It is a step forward in the gay movement.
~ Shyam Benegal, Festival Patron

I am very happy to be associated with KASHISH for the second year as its Ambassador. KASHISH is a great platform to uphold human rights and dignity for all, which is what I strongly believe in too. KASHISH is a celebration of the equality of all human emotions irrespective of sex, creed, race and culture. KASHISH also gives an opportunity to young budding filmmakers to showcase their talents especially in India where there is a lack of a platform for showcasing independent films.
~ Celina Jaitley, Festival Ambassador

Why should you ask for equal rights – demand it, grab it. Let us have more forums like Kashish.
~ Pooja Bhatt, Chief Guest at Opening Ceremony

It is lovely to be here. I wish KASHISH goes from strength to strength and scale to scale.
~ Juhi Chawla, Guest of Honor at Closing Ceremony

I was here last year and I am happy to be here this year and I see it has become bigger. The festival and me are on the margins, but when we have to be creative, it allows us to be more freer.
~ Rahul Bose, Guest of Honor at Closing Ceremony

I thank Kashish and the jury for selecting the film. The film wouldn't have been possible without the contribution of 400 persons from across the world who send in money to finance the film. This award is dedicated those people.
~ Sanjay Suri, Producer of 'I Am' receiving the award for Best Narrative Feature

Kashish has really taken root and can today loudly and proudly proclaim that it will be an annual event that will be part of the cultural life of Mumbai. Film is the potent of all visual mediums and films at Kashish should not just be restricted to the festival but also be available for general viewing.
~ Sai Paranjpye, Jury Chairperson

I really relished the films and the sweetness and simplicity of the organization of the festival, the volunteers kept the show kicking, and of course you were the Agony Uncle to stick the show together.
~ Khalid Mohamed, Jury member

I thoroughly enjoyed myself...the atmosphere...the love and dedication of you and your team...the audience reactions and most importantly the films...some of which were outstanding. There were images, which will stay with me for a long time. And there was so much to think about...get angry about...cry about...and laugh about.
~ Shernaz Patel, Jury member

It was a pleasure and a privilege to be in the company of such fine committed people. I shall cherish this experience for a long long time.
~ Samir Soni, Jury member

It's been a great experience attending Kashish Mumbai Queer Film Festival. It's such an exciting festival with dedicated audience. The volunteers are full of energy, motivated, working hard and always there to help with a sincere smile. As a jury, I've seen a wide range of films with tremendous good quality and an impressive line up of films. The festival is also a reliable platform for Indian queer films and has a big potential to be on of the important film festivals in Asia.
~ John Badalu, Jury member

Your festival truly is amazing and it is incredible what you have been able to accomplish in only two years. I had a magical time. Everyone whether movie star or volunteer was so gracious and hospitable. Your festival is an inspiration and I will share some of my experience with the board of directors here at Outfest. Particularly your very successful experiment of free admission.
~ Q.Allan Brocka, Festival Guest

What can I say? I am still spinning with joy from the amazing whirlwind experience of being with you at your beautiful festival. Three days filled with smiles, laughter, music, kindness, gentleness, courage, commitment and immeasurable amounts of inspiration. Nothing in my life so far could have prepared me for such a joyous, thrilling and life-changing experience. Thank you and Kashish's beautiful band of love revolutionaries so much for inviting me to your beautiful country and your amazing event. I promise I will keep working hard and making films to earn the honour of being 'Filmmaker in Focus' until you are hopefully inspired to invite me to see you once again.
~ Rikki Beadle-Blair, Festival Guest

Attention and reactions of the media

While 25% mentioned that they came to know about KASHISH through friends, about 51% came to know of KASHISH through the media and online sites.

Pre-festival coverage began one week before the festival with a press conference and through the week there were several stories and reports leading to the festival. The opening night and closing night award ceremony were very well covered by both print, satellite and online media.

Kashish got covered in all the mainstream newspapers - The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, Mumbai Mirror; HT Caf้, Time Out Mumbai, DNA gave exclusive spreads to Kashish. There have been coverage and news snippets in more than 180 news sites, ezines and blogs; fanning off a wide ripple of information reach.

Several leading television news channels covered the event and press conference.

Role of local partners / organizations

KASHISH 2011 was organized by – Solaris Pictures, the only Indian film production company that has consistently been making films on queer themes; Bombay Dost, India's first registered LGBT magazine and a queer creative platform; and THE Humsafar Trust, a male sexual health agency working for MSM and Transgender communities.

Principal Partner was DKT India, manufacturers of Zaroor and XXX condoms. They invested 40% of the total festival expenditure. This was the first time a mainstream brand collaborated with KASHISH.

Associate Partners were Movies That Matter (17.5%), UNAIDS and UNDP (12% each) Venue partners were Cinemax and Alliance Francaise de Bombay

Supporting Partners were British Council, who supported UK filmmaker Rikki Beadle-Blair's visit, Arts Network Asia (Singapore), who supported jury member John Badalu's travel and Indieflix (USA) who hosted the KASHISH Coffee Break Online Competition.

The festival was powered by Time Out Mumbai which provided free ad space in Time Out magazine, in Mint newspaper as well as facilitated 2 giant hoardings.

In a first of its kind effort, crowd funding was sought to invite and host noted filmmaker Q. Allan Brocka from USA. The Pride Partners were Nomura, Trikone Northwest (USA), Desiboys, Kalakranti film festival (USA), Tasveer film festival (USA), Club One Seven (Singapore), Gaysi, and several individuals.

KASHISH collaborated with other LGBT initiatives like Salvation Star & Gossip (for parties), Azaad Bazaar (for trophies), D'Kloset (for T-shirts and caps), Queer Ink (for online promotion) and TQC (for publicity)

PR agency Actimedia, website design agency Wickiewoola and Hotel Orritel West, offered their services at discounted rates.

Effects of the event

1. LGBT persons and mainstream audiences got to see a wide range of Indian and International queer films. It opened up a platform for discussing queer and human rights issues through film screenings and panel discussions.

2. The festival presented a space for intermingling of LGBT persons and mainstream audiences without stigma & discrimination.

3. The LGBT persons were empowered by the films shown at the festival which not only reflected the struggles and victory of LGBT movements across the world but also personal stories of hope, happiness, love and relationships.

4. Awareness was created among mainstream audiences about gay, lesbian, transgender & bisexual issues by watching films and interaction with LGBT persons.

5. Indian LGBT films that usually do not get a platform elsewhere in India, received a special focus, both at the screening and in the media. This would act an encouragement for Indian filmmakers who attempt to make films on queer subjects, there by giving an impetus to the nascent queer filmmaking in India.

6. Through the above processes it is hoped that the objective of the film festival in mainstreaming queer visibility through cinema and enhancing rights and dignity of LGBT persons in India would be achieved.

What went very well? What went moderately? What went wrong?

KASHISH this year was Bigger, Bolder & Queerer, making its India's Biggest Queer Film Festival. It continued to hold many firsts -

• to be held in a mainstream venue on an international scale.
• to receive exemption from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
• involve participation of so many celebrities and international guests
• to screen such a large number of films from so many countries at two venues simultaneously
• to have competitive sections, jury panel and cash awards
• to have such a huge audience turnout – both queer and non-queer
• to have received such a huge media coverage reaching out to millions of people

Challenges ahead:

1. To find consistent funding, venues and partners to make it a sustainable annual event

2. To have greater participation of filmmakers and international guests

3. To hold a range of allied queer events during the film festival like play reading, film workshops, etc

4. To invite and involve greater participation of politicians, embassies, government and non-governmental organizations, and decision makers

5. To increase the participation of mainstream audience and increase interaction

6. To hold more screenings and other queer film related events throughout the year.

7. To take KASHISH to other cities as a two-day festival and also collaborate with other international film festivals in India.

8. To take KASHISH films to colleges & universities and facilitate discussions.

Lesson learned from the event

• Planning for the event has to start much in advance. More detailed and organized planning needed.

• A secretariat / board of directors to be set up with defined roles and responsibilities for key members.

• It maybe better to hold the event at one venue with multiple screens so that operations and management becomes easier. Also the audience would have options and choices.

• Better financial planning as well as better understanding of branding of sponsors.

Plans for a follow-up for the event

• A specially curated package of 8 Queer Indian Shorts from KASHISH 2011 will be offered for programming at other international film festivals round the year.

• Special screenings of the award winning films in Mumbai by Bombay Dost Sunday Highs and other events.

• A package of films from KASHISH 2011 will be taken to other cities like Pune and Goa. Also screening of some of the LGBT films from KASHISH at colleges

• Other film related activities like workshops and film discussions throughout the year.

KASHISH 2011 Award Winners

Best Narrative Feature – I Am
(2011, 110 min, India, Onir)

Jury's Citation:
For the film's truly kaleidoscopic vision of the human condition. The film narrates four diverse stories, which deal with a spectrum of topics including same-gender relationships. The quartet is a marvelous portrait of contemporary social concerns, in sum their impact being bold as well as beautiful.

Acceptance note by Director, Onir :
"I AM has traveled to many festivals and won awards but this award from Kashish will remain the most precious award I have ever received as this is my first award in my city Mumbai. Wish Kashish a bigger brighter progressive years."

Best Documentary Feature – We Were Here
(2011, 90 min, USA, David Weissman)

Jury's Citation:
For the film's in-depth realization - through personalized interviews and incisive reportage– of a heart wrenching chapter of history – that is.. the advent of AIDS in San Francisco of the 1970s-80s.

Acceptance note by Director, David Weissman:
"I'm so honored to receive this award from your festival - I'm so happy it was able to screen in Mumbai."

Best International Short – Let The World Know About Me
(2010, 14 min, Argentina, Mariana Giordano)

Jury's Citation:
For the film's inventive blend of the musical idiom with a purposeful point to make, vis-เ-vis the stepping out by a girl… from the by-now claustrophobic closet.

Acceptance note by Director, Mariana Giordano:
"First of all, I would like to thank Kashish festival for the great opportunity of showing our short film. Wining this award makes us very happy and motivates us to keep going on producing and making films that makes a stand on what we believe. But the thing we really appreciate is the fact that you enjoyed our film -I hope at least as half as we enjoyed making it. That's our biggest prize. Thank you very much for everything."

Best Indian Narrative Short – Amen
(2010, 24 min, India, Ranadeep Bhattacharyya & Judhajit Bagchi

Jury's Citation:
For the sensitive depiction of the little discussed aspect of same gender dating through websites; the film's assertive conclusion, credible performances, and technical assurance.

Acceptance note by Directors, Ranadeep & Judhajit :
"Making short films in India is in itself a difficult task and even more painstaking is to screen them. We are extremely grateful to Kashish for giving us such a big platform to showcase our film Amen to such a varied audience. After four days of continuously watching great films from across the globe, 'Amen' winning the Best Indian Narrative Short Award from the distinguished Jury comprising of stalwarts from the film fraternity was one of the best moments of our life as it is also our very first award ever! It was such warmth and togetherness coupled with hard work for all at Kashish to make us all feel at home. Congratulations to the entire team and the volunteers for an experience that would be cherished life long."

Best Documentary Short – Bullied
(2010, 40 min, USA, Bill Brummel & Geoffrey Sharp)

Jury's Citation:
For the film's stark and disturbing trials and tribulations of a gay student facing relentless torture and bullying from his peers.. to which his school authorities seem to turn a blind eye to. The young man's eventual triumph makes the film inspiring and edifying.

Acceptance note by Producer/ Writer/Co-Director, Bill Brummel:
"Thank you so much for this honor. I wish I could be there with you. We made Bullied for one reason - to draw attention to the crisis of anti LGBT bullying in schools. The message is simple. Every child, regardless of color, gender, sexual orientation or identification deserves a safe education. I'd like to thank Jamie Nabozny, the subject of Bullied, for his courage in fighting back against a system that too often turns a blind eye to anti-gay bullying, and the Southern Poverty Law Center for funding the film and distributing it free of charge to more than 50,000 schools in the U.S. Thanks again. I truly appreciate it."

Special Jury Award – I Am

Jury's Citation:
The jury unanimously singled out Sonali Gulati's 'I AM'. The jury whole-heartedly thumbed up the film's bold and frank accounts of young gay men and women dealing with family prejudices as well as stoic understanding.

Acceptance note by Director, Sonali Gulati :
"I would like to thank the Kashish Mumbai Intl. Queer Film Festival for showing this film in Bombay and to the jury for this award. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the people who agreed to be in this film, without whom I could not have made this film. I am indebted to their generosity and for allowing me into their lives and be able to share this with all of you. Lastly I would like to thank all the people who helped me make this film, especially my editor Anupama Chandra who really shaped the film."

KASHISH Coffee Break Audience Award – Nothing Happened
(2009, 10 min, USA, Julia Kots)

For receiving the highest score of 9.87 with 403 views and 93 votes at Kashish Coffee On-line Competition, from May 1 to May 20, with our Online partners indieflix.com.

Acceptance note by The ladies of NOTHING HAPPENED- Director Julia Kots, Producer/Writer Jessica Provenz, Producer/Actress Sarah Louise Lilley, Producer/Actress Jessica Henson :
"Unfortunately we can't be there in person but are thrilled to accept the KASHISH Coffee Break Online Audience Award. A big thank you to everyone at the festival for all your support."

Riyad Wadia Award for Best Emerging Indian Filmmaker – Shumona Banerjee for Kusum-The Flower Bud – Cash prize of Rs.10,000
(2010, 10.31 min, India, Shumona Banerjee)

Jury's Citation:
For the whimsical, witty and yet so wise 'Kusum – The Flower Bud', about a spunky transvestite's bond with an eccentric professor.

Acceptance note by Director, Shumona Banerjee:
"Winning this award is such an honour , an immense encouragement and a much needed reassurance. It is extremely heartening to know that someone else thinks I'm talented apart from me! Thank you Kashish, the jury and the Wadia family for choosing me. I do hope to prove worthy of it in time to come and emerge as a filmmaker to look forward to."

Festival Links

Festival Website: www.mumbaiqueerfest.com

Festival Blog www.kashishmiqff.blogspot.com

Festival Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Kashish.MIQFF

Festival Twitter: http://twitter.com/Kashish2011

Festival Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_yYX3j-zVk

Festival TV Spot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMjyP1rD9BA

Festival Cinema Spot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KjcZSq9Akc