August 23, 2001
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A queer film festival for South Asians

Sukhjit Purewal in San Jose

Which nostril would an authentic desi dyke pierce in an age when piercings have become mainstream?

That is just one of the more lighthearted questions the upcoming film festival, QFilmistan, will explore.

Queer Filmistan will mark the first time that films about South Asian homosexuals will have their own forum in the United States.

The festival, which will run from August 31 to September 2 at the Artists' Television Access theatre in San Francisco, is being sponsored by Trikone, a Bay Area organisation for South Asian homosexuals and bisexuals.

Trikone has been in existence for 15 years.

South Asian homosexual films have been a regular part of gay and lesbian film festivals in the US and have received high praise.

"Our goal is to bring queer South Asian films and filmmakers in a space that hasn't existed before," Trikone board member Madhuri Anji told

Anji said the idea for the festival grew out of the positive response Trikone received from its DesiQ 2000 convention last year, in particular the film night.

Bakirathi Mani, another Trikone member who helped with the film selection, said the festival is an opportunity for South Asian homosexuals to move forward.

"This is a great opportunity to bring them not only to a South Asian audience, but to broader audiences to generate a whole variety of conversations about being South Asian and queer," said Mani. "It is a celebration of the visibility of the queer South Asian off screen and onscreen and a point [from] where we can move forward."

The thirty-plus films will be shown in five sessions that will centre on different themes, including coming out, cultural identity and definitions of family.

Kicking off the event will be Friday's segment titled Navel Gazing, Nasal Piercings followed over the next two days by Sex 'N' Fantasy, Travel Log, Family and Icon.

The mix will include short films ranging from four to 25 minutes as well as longer works, including one about the Parsi heritage of Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury who died of AIDS, titled Freddie Mercury: The Untold Story, by Rudi Dolezal and Hannes Rossacher.

The question of piercings will be wrangled with in Friday night's presentation of Junky Punky Girlz by Nisha Ginatra. The same evening, Listen to My Voice, a documentary by Tahir Ali Khilji and Anjum Khilji, will look at why a group of Pakistani men choose to have sex with other men and the violence they subject themselves to by doing so.

Wrapping up the festival on Sunday night will be a viewing of A Little Sadness and Sixth Happiness, based on Firdaus Kanga's semi-autobiographical novel about a Parsee boy who suffers from a brittle bone disease and his relationship with a male lodger.

The group of filmmakers includes some well-known homosexual filmmakers such as Pratibha Parmar, a British South Asian, who has been making movies about being queer for two decades.

Parmar's movie Khush is being shown on Friday night and Wavelength on Saturday.

Trikone sent out a call for submissions earlier this year, and was flooded with entries from the United Kingdom, Canada, India, Pakistan as well as graduate MFA projects from students from New York University and the University of Southern California.

"There are a growing number of queer people who are interested in being filmmakers," said Mani. But there are still some filmmakers who requested anonymity and who are presenting their works under pseudonyms.

Said Mani, "There are a number of ways people police themselves."

(For more information about QFilmistan call 415-789-7322 or check out for a complete list of movies and timings.)

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