Siddharth Gautam Film Festival
Posted by Agnivo Niyogi
Siddharth Gautam was a lawyer and human rights activist and worked on a variety of issues related to the discrimination against vulnerable groups of people in india. He spearheaded the AIDS Bhedbhav Birodhi Andolan in 1989-90.He was equally vocal about issues relating to the sexual minorities. Also forthright in fighting for environmeental issues, he fought for bringing justice to the victims of Bhopal gas Tragedy. But God, it seems, has a fondness for gems like him. He retreated to the heavenly abode at a ripe age of 28 succumbing to cancer.
The Siddarth Gautam film festival is aimed at screening films that deal with subjects that Siddharth Gautam worked on, and in the process make a platform for budding film makers and social activists to show case their work. This film festival was organised by The Friends of Siddharth Gautam group in New Delhi till 2003. Since 2003 SAATHII and its partner organisations have been organising this festival in Kolkata.
This year the festival kicked off with special screenings in Siliguri on 21 March. In Kolkata the event was held on 26-27 March at Rotary Sadan. The plethora of films that were screened during these two days touched upon various issues related to AIDS, humane face of sex workers, the struggle of sexual minorities etc. The festival started with the film “From the third eye” a masterpiece by director Amitava Sarkar. The film is a document of the achievements of several “transgender heroes” in the backdrop of the awareness drive about the queer community. It offers hope to the transgender population to live with dignity despite social stigma, oppressive social barriers that prevent them from realising their full potential.
Following transgender issues, AIDS dominated the screen space. Two beautiful short films made by director Tirthankar Guha Thakurta were shown. He has experimented with still photography these films “Being positive” and “Magic”. He has captured the emotional turmoil of HIV positive persons (an adolescent guy in the first film and a pregnant woman in the second) too well to be described in words.
The day ended with the film “Loving Leena” based on the life story of a woman in love with another woman. Director Tanya Das portrayed the lives of two couples: one lesbian and another heterosexual to narrate the dynamics of relationships.
The second day explored the avenues of prostitution with the screening of two movies on sex workers. The first in the line up was “In the Flesh” by Bishakha Dutta which was a documentary of the lives of two women and a transgender sex worker. The film was a touching account of the daily lives of three real life characters, their struggle for existence and coping up with social stigma.
The second film delved into a world hitherto unknown to many. Male prostitution. Lives of three gigolos were captured in the film “Happy Hookers” by Ashish Sawhney. The film explores the social taboos regarding HIV, homosexuality and commoditisation of sex. Although in the same profession, male sex workers have a life which is poles apart from their female counterpart. The straight from the heart dialogues and hard hitting truths make the film a revelation of sorts.
Truly the moment of the festival came next. The best film screened this year was undoubtedly Colors, a venture undertaken by Saikat and Bikarm Das. The film depicts in a satirical way the “man hunting” that is rampant on the local trains in suburban Kolkata. The comic depiction of how every character eyes a good looking man on the train brought a smile on even the gloomiest of the faces. The competition among the passengers to woo the man was hilarious. But in the end a twist changes it all and love prevails. The film sends out a message to all those craving only for beauty. Take a note of this film. It deserves a bow.
The festival ended with the screening of “Assume Nothing” a film from New Zealand based director Kristy Macdonald. The film was a documentary. It dealt with the fallacy of the concept of two genders. Through art, photography and performances of six “alternative” gender artists the film tries to voice the concerns of the members of the “alternative” gender, those who do not conform to the idea of being either male or female.
Although a film festival, the two day event was no less than a Kumbh Mela for the community members to met and discuss issues and challenges facing the community. Short interactive sessions with the directors, social activists and other pioneers undoubtedly helped the audience become a gain insight into the happenings in our world. I for one would vouch for the fact that i have turned out to be a more “educated” person post the Siddharth Gautam Film Festival.