"This is the first time I'm getting exposed to films which revolve around gender diversity. I have gained a deeper understanding on the lives and issues faced by people belonging to various genders,” says David Palatty, a third year BBA student of Bharat Mata College at Thrikkakara in Ernakulam. David was speaking to TNM on the last day of SamaBhav, a two-day travelling international film festival with the theme of ‘celebrating gender diversity’, that was held at the college.
Like David, hundreds of students gained a fresh gender-just perspective through the two-day film screenings and the post screening discussions that were held. From toxic masculinity to transphobia, this travelling film festival showcased 16 specially curated Indian and international films.
The travelling film fest, which started on Thursday, had come to Kochi for screening after covering various parts of the country.
Organised by Men Against Violence and Abuse (MAVA), a Mumbai based organisation that engages with young boys and men to address issues of gender discrimination, and the PK Rosy Film Society formed by the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC), the festival provided an opportunity for the college students of Kochi to examine thier gender baises, prejudices and attitudes towards relationships, sexual consent, sexual orientation and identities.
“It is only now that I've understood what LGBTQI+ persons actually go through. The film festival led to a realisation that society should give space for all of them to be what they are, because only they themselves know what is best for them. It is their choice to be who they are and we should respect it,” says David.
Speaking to TNM, Harish Sadani, founder of MAVA, talks about why such a film festival focuses on students across the country. “Mostly we see film screenings on confined topics like women's issues or about the transgender community. We often forget to address and educate the men out there, and MAVA is specifically focussed on that. We call out toxic masculinity, we make the men understand how this adversely affects them in addition to women. We are making young men realise what they can gain by shunning the toxicity that comes with their privilege of gender, and this is where MAVA becomes unique,” he says.
He adds that the discussions following the movie screening act as a safe space for the students to open up, ventilate their anxieties and listen to the experiences of others.
Along with international movies which are on gender diversity, the film fest also saw the screening of films from Kerala - Gi directed by Kunjila and Ruchibhedam by filmmaker Theertha Menon.
Speaking at the event, Daya Gayathri, transgender activist and student, pointed out the lacunae in the Malayalam film industry in addressing gender diversity.
“Whenever we conduct such film festivals, we often will have to depend on international films, and that is because there are only a handful of movies in Malayalam which realistically portray gender issues,” she said.
In the south, the film festival has so far travelled to Bengaluru and Kochi. It will go next to Indore.