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Towards an equal world

As part of the two-day travelling film festival ‘Samabhav’ organised by Men Against Violence & Abuse (MAVA), to create awareness of gender issues and end gender violence, 17 national and international films will be screened in Goa at the Don Bosco Oratory on January 9 and January 10. NT BUZZ gets you the details

DANUSKA DA GAMA I NT BUZZ

Men Against Violence & Abuse (MAVA) is organising a travelling film festival, ‘Samabhav’ from November 2018 to March 2019 celebrating gender diversity. The second edition of the two-day film festival on gender, masculinity, sexuality and relationship matters begun in Hyderabad, thereafter travelled to Mumbai. After Goa it will travel to Delhi, Haryana, Lucknow, Baroda, Jaipur, Shillong, Nashik, Aurangabad, Bhandara and Satara.

With the aim of bringing gender-based violence to an end and promoting gender equality, the film festival will be hosted by the Department of Social Work, Don Bosco College, Panaji on January 9 and 10, at the Oratory Hall.

Organiser of the festival in Goa, manager of Don Bosco College, Fr Joaquim Lobo says: “God has created men and women in his own image and likeness. Therefore every born human being has divinity in him/her. Men and women have functional differences that are necessary for the continued growth of humanity.”

He believes that there needs to be awareness of these physical, emotional, psychological and social differences, and people have to learn to respect, revere and honour each one’s individuality. “Any kind of harassment, discrimination, injustice, is unacceptable in a civilised society,” Lobo says.

MAVA has pioneered efforts for over two decades in India, engaging boys and men to address issues of gender inequality and discrimination by interrogating the existing dominant model of masculinity and helping to prevent gender-based violence against women.

At the film festival, 17 national and international short films, documentaries and feature films will be screened. Harish Sadani, the festival organiser states that these films will cover a range of matters from gender based discrimination and homophobia and transphobia, to challenging the male gender stereotypes. Films about intersection of gender-caste-class will also be screened.

The opening film ‘Khara Ki Khota’, is a documentary which deals with the virginity test ritual of the Kanjarbhat community and ‘Stop The V Ritual’ protests against it. The international package has films like ‘Boys Who Like Girls’ among others.

‘Netizens’ which deals with online harassment of women in US will have its Indian premiere at the festival. Other Indian films like ‘S Durga’ and ‘The Forsaken’ will provide fresh insights on the toxic masculinity, casual sexism and entrenched misogyny that play out in everyday routines of women across India. Viewers will also get to watch an insightful film ‘Velvet Revolution’ produced by International Association of Women in Radio and Television.

The festival will engage youth and experts like academicians, gender rights activists, filmmakers and journalists on contemporary gender issues through discussions post. Social activists like Sabina Martins, Asawari Nayak from the Department of Women’s Studies, Goa University and LGBTQ activists like Diana Dias and Christine Fernandes will be present.

Consul General of Sweden,Ulrika Sundberg,  who has championed the cause of gender diversity and inclusion will be the chief guest on the second day.

 

(Details: samabhavfilmfest@gmail.com/9870307748)

Harish Sadani, the chief organiser of this festival speaking to NT BUZZ states that while gender-based violence on women is largely committed by men, all men can play an important role in preventing it. However he does say that people need to think and question the perpetrator of casual violence and violence against women, instead of blaming the victim and raising questions about her clothes, situation, etc.

 

Excerpts from an interview

 

  1. Why did you decide to initiate the film festival?

I have been working on gender and sexuality matters in India for over the past 25 years. Through Men Against Violence and Abuse (MAVA), of which I’m the co-founder, we have been engaging and mentoring hundreds of young men using out-of-the box methods like street-theatre, cultural magazine, youth helpline. Two years ago, I experimented in two colleges of Mumbai the idea of a two-day film fest where we would showcase national and international films on gender and have facilitated conversations post screening of the films. That idea was successfully implemented amidst involvement of a big crowd of youths and last year between October 2017 and February 2018, we organised the two-day film festival travelling to eight cities and four districts. This year, we have the second edition of the film fest, with a new set of films and venues. The fest, called Samabhav, has started from November 2018 and will travel to nine cities and four districts. Goa is in the third round of this year’s Samabhav.

This film fest is unique in many respects. While there have been women-centric or LGBT-centric film festivals in various parts of India, this festival tries to cover the lives and issues of all genders – explore the intersectionality of gender and break the gender binary. There are films on gender-discrimination and sexual harassment against women and girls, on toxic masculinity and its impact on men and boys; while having films on homophobia and transphobia that portray the stigma, humiliation and inhuman treatment faced by homosexual and transgender persons. When the youth take a pause and re-look at all genders and the existing situation, they are able to see how patriarchy is the common enemy of all and we should be working collectively to address the challenges.

 

  1. Can you comment on the need to have a better understanding on gender diversity in India? Isn’t it sufficient?

It is much needed currently. For the past few centuries, there have been taboos attached to sexuality. Sexuality education is still not included in many schools across India. As a result, there is a dearth of safe, non-threatening spaces for a significant population of adolescent boys and girls, spaces to ventilate, share their innermost concerns, questions and insecurities related to gender and sexuality. Hetero-normativity is largely projected through films and other media, school curriculum, religion and other subsystems of society. Though the 20th century psychology and science have recognised homosexuality as a variation of form of sexual expression, we still have many people carrying prejudices and ill-conceived notions of it being ‘abnormal’.

Though the Supreme Court decriminalised same-sex love under Section 377 and much before that, recognised transgenders and their rights as citizens, we still find prejudices regarding sexual minorities existing. For a pluralistic, gender-equal, healthy society, we have to promote healthy conversations on gender among the youth. And our film fest is one step in that direction. We will be having key discussants from Goa – from academicians to gender rights activists to lawyers invited to engage the gathered people.

 

  1. Could you throw light on issues faced by men in India that are generally never spoken about, and the need to create sensitisation on the same?

Yes, masculinity is not a unitary construct. How the current toxic masculinity impacts women and society in general is being talked about; how it impacts men and boys is rarely talked. Society’s expectations on men to perform roles of a ‘provider, achiever, winner’ take a toll on men’s health and repercussions of it are often manifested in the forms of addictions and gender-based violence. For a healthy society, it is equally important to sensitise and engage men and boys on these matters.

 

  1. Why do you believe films and documentaries have the power to influence and change the minds of people?

The influence of films on impressionable young minds is quite impactful and has been studied. Ideas about ‘being a man or a woman’ are often shaped by films and other media. Also there is a growing trend of many quality films that are being produced regionally and internationally, often by young filmmakers. These films need to be viewed and talked about by youth who would be shaped further and gaining perspective on matters that relate to their lives and challenges. Documentaries that cover a first-hand exposure to the lives of people especially of disadvantaged sections of society could be insightful and help promote gender diversity and harmony.

 

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