With the intention of spreading awareness about all issues related to gender and to provide a platform for healthy conversations on gender diversity, Men Against Violence and Abuse (MAVA Mumbai) organized a two-day film festival 'Sama-bhav' in association with Jain (Deemed-to-be University) and Namma Pride on 10 – 11 November 2017 in the premises of Jain (Deemed-to-be University), Bengaluru. The film festival was brought to Bengaluru by its Director, Founder Harish Sadani.
A two-day travelling film festival screened 18 national and international films and documentaries on gender, masculinity, and relationship which featured discrimination and violence against men, women and the LGBTQI communities in global times. The film festival also included expert talks on various gender issues across cultural contexts.
The viewing experience Khule Aasman Ke Niche opened with initiatives undertaken to coach rural girls in Mumbra in Mumbai into the sport of football. Set in the form of a documentary, the film text explored women's responses to playing football.
Adolescent girls explore with fascination the opportunities of playing football in open public spaces. They recalled that the act of playing football let them negotiate stereotypical responses (for instance, gesticulation, a call, or the outcry to indicate the passing of the ball that is crucial in demonstrating team spirit, a marker that let them pass the ball did not come to them with ease unlike boys). It had made them tougher, agile as human beings but unlearning cultural expectations proved challenging.
Journalist Ammu Joseph lead the discussion into reflecting on taboos imposed on men who play games defined as 'girly', it raised pertinent questions about whether sartorial codes like the hijab possibly deter Muslim children. The documentary led viewers into reflecting on whether cricket or football were exclusively manly interventions, if aggression, by and large, is man's prerogative, can hitherto engender sports forms like football and cricket subverted to suit women participants.
When a commercial blockbuster like Lagaan drew mass audiences into considering cricket with minimal locale-specific paraphernalia to manoeuvre public attention towards national integration defying the British, Gunga pehalvan drew viewers into the politics of invisibility and helplessness of the Gunga, who indulged in wrestling that has close to marginal significance, the latest being Amir khan's responses to women's marginal presence in sports namely wrestling in Dangal.
The second short narrative by Aravind V K titled Broken Image raised ethical questions on reporting. The discussions meandered into arguments about whether saving a victim must take precedence over sensationalizing stories as the featured victim quite helplessly but firmly makes a demand for a mirror to look into her scarred, burnt face. Witness to this is the photographer who was, unfortunately, party, though indirectly, to the scene of violence at night when she was kidnapped, held captive and acid burnt. The short narrative slips into ruminations and articulate expressions of what it is like to be humane in a world that has no room for righteousness ruled by capitalist, ruthless forces. Photographer Kevin Carter's iconic photo of a starving little girl being preyed upon by a vulture was brought up for discussion while discussing ethics in reporting.
Ozhivudivasathe Kali, a feature film set in the Malayalam context directed by Sanal Sashidharam is tellingly set on an election day. The feature film that opens as a violent reunion of friends belonging to different castes, obvious through references to the upper caste as therumeni and the lower caste who through the course of the feature film, in a drunken state, recites the poem are indicators that determine overt and covert manifestations of caste prejudices and its resultant actualisation into violence.
The film is remarkable with its intersectional nuances cutting across caste, class and gender politics. The feature film discussed in the presence of the practicing child psychiatrist at NIMHANS Dr. Shekar Seshadhri opened up discussions on masculinities, privilege, and consent. The feature film hinted at how such demonstrations of violent masculinity posed threats to not only the opposite gender, the men, in fact, had reconciliatory stances in their approaches towards the woman, the domestic help, who to the viewer is a potential victim. They rationalize to redefine consensual sex and rape in their conversations thereafter. They were ruthless towards one another in their fatal game that resulted in the brutal murder of their friend as ruthless as they were to the rooster hung up quite metaphorically. They are defined in their valences of violence that manifest shockingly in words, hurling abuses at one another, violent acts or threats of violence meted out to the weaker at all times.
'Khel Badal' was a short narrative of six videos exploring issues of everyday sexism, sartorial codes, patriarchy parley in oppression, the need to subvert gender normativity, inscribed domestic labour, child marriage, and religious forces of oppression. Their conscious internalization of patriarchal norms resurges in conversations and actions.
'Daaravtha' or threshold is a short film that unfolds in Maharashtra that throws light on sensibilities caught in the wrong body type. Vinay Chandran facilitated the session throwing light on LGBT rights, the need to decriminalize gay sex, Section 377 of the constitution, introduced with the Indian Penal Code way back in 1860, criminalizing sexual acts. The violence of the most gruesome kind finds expression in state vendetta against the LGBT community. State-sponsored surveillance defines their everyday experiences narrating terrifying instances of rape under custody.
Unlike typical stories of violence meted out to the LGBT community, the child protagonist in 'Daaravtha' is led into discovering himself, thereafter identifying as female, manifest in the mother's desire to see him as a girl, right when he is born until he discovers himself as effeminate with allegiance towards acts culturally termed feminine like adorning one's hand with Mehendi, Bollywood item songs score the background appropriately leading the viewer time and again into sexual innuendoes. He is liberated on an election day when rode out crossdressed by his mother on a bicycle in a small time town. The movie harps around hope although there are threats of violence lurking in the corner.
'The mask you walk in' is quite a contrast to exploring oneself in the Indian cultural ethos. The documentary focuses on identity issues of different kinds caught within narrow Americanised definitions of masculinities. Neuroscientists, psychologists, sociologists, media personnel, testify to offer empirical evidence of the 'boy crisis' and tactics to combat it.
'Walking the walk' is a documentary that is set in the backdrop of the queer pride walk led by transgender activists and marginalized men and women of the state.
'Driving with Selvi' is a documentary directed, produced and cinematographed by Elisa Paloschi set out to screen a piece on non-fiction on a Bengaluru based taxi driver Sevli. This piece of life writing is caught in a world within the shackles of heteronormativity and unconcerned mothering. She breaks free to only discover herself in yet another marriage and domesticity that lets her be herself. It tells the story of a devalued Indian girl who struggles to survive, true to her struggles are the average middle-class Indian woman's struggle with added tags of being educated and empowered.
Overall, the films showcased encourage the young generation to dismantle gender binaries and patriarchy which can be a step towards a societal change.
The festival witnessed huge success with the participation of students and faculty members of various colleges.