India has just completed its Bangalore Queer Film Festival February 20- March 2. Bangalore, India’s IT hub has hosted the film festival on themes related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities since 2009.
The year’s Queer Film Festival organized by groups working on LGBT rights is the biggest ever, with 91 films from 24 countries being screened.
This comes despite the Indian Supreme Court in December re-criminalized gay sex, making it a punishable offense by up to life imprisonment. A 1861 colonial-era law, known as Section 377 of India’s penal code, makes homosexual acts illegal in India.
In 2009 the New Delhi High Court decriminalized homosexual acts between consenting adults. However, in December 2013, the Indian Supreme Court overturned the 2009 decision, again criminalizing homosexual acts. Although the law deals with gay sex, it remains fuzzy about the legality of LGBT activism.
“The mood is that we are not going back into the closet. We have people who are happy to be out and who have learnt over the last four years when the law was in our favour that nothing really changes. That as long as there is support, people are okay to come out and say, I am okay to be LGBT whatever the Supreme Court may think… There is nothing minuscule about this minority,” festival director Vinay Chandran told ndtv.com.
An installation was also a part of the festival: a postbox where visitors could write postcards and request the Supreme Court to repeal the laws that criminalize homosexuality in India. “I have written to the Supreme Court that LGBT people also have a life like anybody else… When Great Britain, whose laws we are following, repealed the same law way back in 1948, we can’t hold to the old draconian laws and ideas,” a film enthusiast told ndtv.com.
But many of those attending felt that if anything, the top court’s decision gave rise to sharper and more committed films. “The Supreme Court verdict is a watershed. It is going to positively affect films,” said Nakshatra Bagwe, a young filmmaker from Mumbai.
Several genre of films were screened that were broadly classified under feature films, short films, experimental cinema and documentaries.
“When asked about the audience Chandran said, “This year there was an attendance by more than 900 people. It was a packed house on all three days.”