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10 Must-Watch Films On Sexuality, Revolution And More, Now Playing In Delhi

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By Shambhavi Saxena and Rohini Banerjee:

Film has a way of conveying itself like no other medium can, and when it comes to human rights issues, there’s nothing like the raw humanity of a well-told story. Engendered – a transnational arts and human rights organization – is bringing to the city of New Delhi the unique I View World film festival. With a focus on human rights, gender, and marginalities, some of the most thought-provoking, stimulating and beautifully told films will be screened during this 6-day long festival, so clear your calendar, because you’re in for a real treat! Here’s a quick look at some must-watch selections from:

Haramkhor

Starring acting stalwarts like Nawaazuddin Siddiqui and Shweta Tripathi, this is a film that explores sexuality in complex, warped ways. It looks at the relationship between a schoolteacher and his teenage pupil, which evolves into one of twisted desire and obsession, and tackles themes of consent, sexual taboos, and small-town violence. It boasts of some harrowing performances and some important reality checks.

A Sinner in Mecca

This film documents the bold and brave journey undertaken by director Parvez Sharma as he travels to Mecca, a place which is steeped in conservative ideology, as a Muslim gay man. Recorded on just an iPhone, his journey is ultimately internal—an exploration of both religious and sexual identity. The film ran into controversy recently with some Muslim factions, but still remains an important reminder of the structures that suppress us.

Manto

A biopic on the legendary writer, Saadat Hassan Manto, this film explores the last seven years of his life, in which he wrote some of his most controversial works. It deals with him grappling with the Partition, with his career in the film industry and his evolution as a writer. This is a story that needs to be told, and this film tells it.

Dheepan

Jacques Audiard’s 2015 drama film tells the story of three Sri Lankans who have been relocated to France to build their lives anew. Dheepan, a former member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, must work with a young woman named Yalini, and a little girl called Illayaal, to pose as a ‘family’. PTSD, pretense, and a local drug ring come to define their lives in an unfamiliar French township, and Audiard’s film promises a powerful story, delivered expertly.

The Dream of Shahrazad

The Vancouver International Film Festival described this film as a “paean to art and democracy.” South African director François Verster has a background in documentary, which loans itself to the way he traces the build-up, explosion and aftermath of the ‘Arab Spring’ in Turkey, Egypt and Lebanon. But his form here combines recorded footage, animation, and puppetry as a true tribute to Shahrazad – the storyteller from The Arabian Nights. In the face of oppressive systems of power, the film asks a question that will be forever relevant – “what is the real value of stories in inspiring a better world?”

The Backward Class

Caste in India is an issue that isn’t going away any time soon, no matter how often those with caste-privilege insist on invisibilising it. But there are those working hard to annihilate caste differences in a highly stratified society. Madeleine Grant and her team from Canada follow the stories of 15 Dalit school students in this moving film, as they prepare for the biggest exam of their life, and strive to break out of the mould society has disadvantaged them with.

The Trials of Spring

‘Pray the Devil Back to Hell’ director Gini Reticker is back with a powerful film about what happened to the women of Egypt immediately after the Arab Spring. In 2011, when Hosni Mubarak’s regime fell, the shackles of the patriarchy did not. The film follows the trials of “nine women across Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen,” many of them falsely implicated and imprisoned. The point Reticker puts across is that the revolution has only just begun. “I don’t think enough stories are told about the women who are the mortar, who are holding things together,” says producer Beth Levison. And it’s these women’s stories you simply should not miss.

Rajkahini

The grim history of the Partition is something that none of us can forget or ignore—and this film explores it with a unique perspective. Drawing heavily from the stories of Saadat Hassan Manto and Ismat Chughtai, director Srijit Mukherjee takes us back to newly Partitioned India, which finds a group of female sex workers facing eviction because the brothel they lived in fell in between the borders of West Bengal and erstwhile East Pakistan (which later became Bangladesh). These women—who have already lost their familes, or been survivors of abuse in the past—have nowhere else to go, and hence, they band together to fight the twin forces of State oppression and patriarchy. A definite must-watch.

Leeches

In the chaotic old city of Hyderabad, 16-year old Raisa hatches a dangerous and improbable plan to save her younger sister from an unhappy and potentially abusive marriage. She then embarks on a remarkable journey of fighting against social structures and trying to find happiness in a world that suppresses your individuality.

Shorts To Watch Out For

Nightlife

Pakistani director Harune Massey’s 2013 documentary glimpses into the mostly unknown world of male child sex workers. We are greeted first by the sight of two young boys waiting on an unidentified street corner of Lahore. Trafficking of young boys happens far too frequently, as Dawn reports, and this film makes us pause and really think about sexual exploitation. Massey also made an interesting comment about the film as “a self-critique, questioning exploitation and artistic work.”

I Am Omar

‘Omar’ is part of director Onir’s ‘I Am’ series which focuses on different people battling with social injustices. ‘I Am Omar’ follows the story of a gay man who has to deal with significant homophobia and violence, as he is brutally persecuted for having sex with another man in a car. The film exposes the harsh reality of anti-LGBTQ prejudice in India and is extremely thought-provoking.

Instababy

This documentary takes us deep into the heart of the American South—where homophobia runs rampant (along with racism and sexism) and LGBTQ people are ostracised and are faced with horrifying violence. The films ventures into the lives of the queer youth who live in such an environment and explores their struggles with sexual identity in the face of orthodox religious and family structures.

Jellyfish

‘Jellyfish’ is a coming-of-age short film set in a tiny Muslim fishing village in Borneo. Danica, a fourteen-year-old fisherwoman, and her family’s sole breadwinner tastes first love with Riya–a mysterious transgender woman who arrives in the village one day. However, things become complicated when she finds out that Riya is actually attracted to Danica’s father. This is a story of sexuality, desire, and the religious and social stigma surrounding the same.

And this is not all. Other films, which recently have been subject to a lot of public discussion — such as ‘Suffragette’ and ‘Aligarh’ — are also being screened as part of the festival, followed by interesting interactive sessions surrounding these films.

Note: Apart from these, the festival will have a slam poetry event and exhibitions of art works by Anindita Bhattacharya, Puneet Kaushik, Balbir Krishan, Adil Khan and Waswo X. Waswo. You can also look forward to a special session on Mira Nair’s cinema, which the director herself is chairing.

Youth Ki Awaaz is the media partner for I View World 2016. For more details, and the screening schedule, click here.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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