This year’s London Indian Film Festival has a strand of LGBTQ films, thanks to the festival’s director Carey Sawhney making a deliberate effort to champion diversity this year. There’s a wide variety of films throughout the programme, which runs until next Friday (29 Jun). Here are three queer movies worth catching.
From Canada, this is a remarkable film that adeptly mixes comedy and drama to tell a complex story. Set in Montreal, Debargo Sanyal stars as Sid, who has just come out as a trans woman when she discovers that 14 year old Ralph (Jamie Mayers) is her son from a teen fling. The boy thinks it’s cool having a ‘lady-dad’, but Sid has plenty of other issues to deal with, including her hot ex-boyfriend (Tom at the Farm’s Pierre-Yves Cardinal) and her dubious parents.
The title refers to how Sid feels like an alien from another planet, wearing a costume she can’t take off. The script is packed with earthy, honest observations alongside the sparky comedic characters, played by the cast with energy and sensitivity as people with sharp opinions and wry senses of humour. And the plot unfolds in ways that grab hold strongly, as everyone needs to open up and speak their truth to the people closest to them. It’s a rare film that can use edgy comedy to tackle such a serious topic without feeling glib. And it never flinches from the more difficult topics. (Closing film, Frid 29 June, at BFI Southbank)
My Son Is Gay
This Tamil-language drama that takes on homosexuality in a startlingly realistic way. It’s about the lively young Varun (Ashwinjith), who realises he’s gay when he can’t stop staring at hot men. He turns to a doctor for help, and ends up beginning a relationship with the doctor’s gay son (Abishek Joseph George). But Varun knows that he needs to come out to his best friends and, more importantly, his mother (Anupama Kumar). Intriguingly, his friends react with surprising support, but his mother simply can’t accept this, despite being a school principal who advises parents not to “stuff your dreams on your children”.
What follows is an astute, intensely moving exploration of cultural pressures, religious beliefs and human emotions, beautifully shot along the picturesque coastline. This style of filmmaking can sometimes feel awkward for Western audiences, but writer-director Lokesh manages to avoid tipping over into melodrama. And he also draws naturalistic performances from the cast. So while the script might feel a bit preachy and comprehensive about LGBTQ issues, it also has an earthy sensibility that’s so resonant that there won’t be a dry eye in the house. (Mon 25 June at SOAS University, Russell Square)
Bird of Dusk
A documentary about noted filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh, this beautifully assembled film is packed with moody, evocative imagery from Ghosh’s hometown Calcutta, intercut with a terrific collection of movie clips, behind-the-scenes footage, archival interviews and new comments from colleagues, including actors who starred in his acclaimed films. Ghosh is notable for breathing new life into Bengali cinema with his unusually instinctive filmmaking style and his sensitivity to women’s issues and gender fluidity. He was also one of the few openly gay figures in Indian cinema until his death from a heart attack at age 49 in 2013.
The film sharply captures Ghosh’s now iconic approach, as he collaborated with his actors and crew to create films that referenced literature and cinematic history through new perspectives. He only acted in two films, but one of these is a jaw-dropper: he played a transgender filmmaker in the award-winning drama Arekti Premer Golpo (2011). Indeed, after challenging gender roles, he took on LGBT issues head-on in his later work. And this documentary, while being somewhat talky, beautifully captures his personality and his lasting impact on Indian cinema and society. (Sun 24 June at BFI Southbank, Tues 26 June at Watermans in Brentford)
There’s also a special tribute to the LGBTQ icon Sridevi on Saturday 23 June at Genesis Whitechapel, with a screening of her 1987 Bollywood cult classic Mr India, in which she plays a journalist who falls in love with an invisible man. Of course lavish musical numbers ensue. Other festival highlights include the opening film Love Sonia, a drama based on the true story of a young girl trying to escape from the sex trade. Demi Moore costars (Thurs 21 June at Cineworld Leicester Square, Saturday 23 June at BFI Southbank). And in the British comedy Eaten by Lions, two brothers orphaned after a safari incident travel from Bradford to Blackpool in search of a new family (Mon 25 June at Picturehouse Stratford, Wed 27 June at Cineworld Leicester Square).