An eye-opening experience – Maria Ana Solla

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As you might already know if you follow our work in social media or in any other way, MAVA is, in its 25th year, delighted to be currently organizing a 2-day travelling Film Festival called Sama-bhav thanks to a wonderful partnership with the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives on the major theme of Gender diversity. The festival is traveling to 8 cities of the country and 4 districts of Maharashtra reaching, therefore an impressive audience. On the 30th and 31 October it was Delhi’s turn to host this enjoyable and instructive event. I had the pleasure to help organizing it as an intern of MAVA and I am happy today to share some insights about the whole experience.

The event took place at Miranda House College in collaboration with Kirori Mal College thanks to the coordination with Dr. Bijayalaxmi Nanda and Dr. Seema Mehra Parihar from whom we were also lucky to hear their experiences and opinions in the post-screenings discussions. This beautiful college accommodated an enthusiastic group of young men and women from Delhi University and members of the civil society working on gender issues in an open minded and eager-to-learn atmosphere.

The package of 18 films in the film festival covers a very broad perspective on the general subject of gender diversity by addressing issues related to: gender identity, sexual orientation, gender discrimination and based-violence, masculinity, gender stereotypes and their consequences in our society and every day lives. Sama-bhav is composed of national and international short-films, documentaries and feature films with the aim of allowing the students to broaden their horizons by engaging in healthy conversations about gender issues in the very diverse Indian realities but also discover the situations in other parts of the world. In Delhi, I had the pleasure to witness this goal being achieved.

With Under the Open Sky directed by Shilpa Phadke, Faiz Ullah and Nikhil Titus from TISS the audience was inspired by this incredible initiative of creating a safe space for girls to play football to have a fundamental conversation about gender discrimination in the access and use of public spaces in India, the screening encouraged many students to share their personal experiences on this issue. Broken Image  by Aravind VK lead the participants to reflect on how to react as witness of gender-based violence and the moral issues surrounding photography. The incredible documentary The Mask You Live in that talks about the struggles of growing up as a boy in the USA was a very important screening of the festival because many of the participants shared that it was the first time they realized the very negative consequences that a narrow and toxic definition of masculinity can have. With Boys Cannot Be Boys produced by CETC lead to a conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace and how it is unfortunately still a big issue in India with a lack of application of the law. The inspiring documentary Walking the Walk by Moses Tulasi nudged the viewers to discuss the difficult realities of transgenders in India and class and cast dynamics in the activism of the LGTBQA community. The shorts from Video Volunteers, Khel Badal showed the diverse realities in India regarding gender and lead the students to discuss how difficult but important it is to dismantle patriarchy in our lives. The short-movie Daaravtha was one of the favorites of the crowd who found in it a very subtle and beautiful way to talk about gender stereotypes. With the documentary A Pinch of Skin from Priya Goswami many attendees discovered the practice of Female Genital Cutting in India, with Breaking Free by Sridhar Rangayan the human rights violations faced by the LGTBQA community in India due to the law section 377 of the penal code and the homophobic social mores were exposed, with Mina Walking by Yosef BarakI the viewers traveled with Mina to Afghanistan and witnessed the struggles of being a girl in a post-war context. I think that you probably got it by now; we discussed an amazing amount of topics regarding gender, masculinity and sexuality. Everybody learned something new in this field about India, the world and most importantly themselves. How was it possible? It is the magic of movies and how it leads people to share.

Besides the movies, the richness of this festival is also based in the opportunity to hear the experiences, opinions and views of major personalities working every day for gender issues towards equality and tolerance. In fact, in every city, members of the civil society with experience in the field are invited to lead the discussions post-screenings. In Delhi, we had the pleasure to have with us: Kamla Bhasin an amazing Indian developmental feminist activist, author and social scientist who inspired us all with her powerful speech about patriarchy and the importance of understand masculinity and humanizing men; Aapurv Jain, the Co-Founder of Queer Asia and the program officer of Partners for Law in Development who shared with all his kindness, understanding and knowledge his views about masculinity, bullying, homosexuality and very interesting comments on the movies; and finally Yashvinder Singh an activist working for the rights of sexual minorities, Hijra and transgender in India who shared a very important insight about what is the reality of being a member of the LGBTQA in India. All of them through their readings, personal experiences and opinions engaged in open minded and eye-opening conversation with the youth.

What I found particularly impressive was the fact that as the participants summed up, in general, the film festival was eye-opening experience specially because of what they learned regarding toxic masculinity, understanding the impact of patriarchy in the lives of men and young boys, the lives of transgender and members of LGBTQA in India and how all these realities are connected to gender stereotypes and gender-based violence, even though the students were in general quite informed in a theoretical and practical way about gender issues as result of their studies in this area. This reinforces and proves that Sama-bhav is a festival first on his kind in India and even to an already sensitized crowd, there is always more to learn about this topic. By covering the impact of patriarchy and violence on boys and men and engaging for a view that looks beyond the binaries of gender and heterosexuality and takes into account the gender as a wide spectrum, Sama-Bhav is making history! By the end of the event students shared that for the first time they perceived the negative consequences of gender stereotypes on men and understood why boys and men must be  ‘’part of the solution’’ as MAVA has being working on for more than 25 years!

I hope this sharing made you curious about the festival, please come and join us in your city!

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