Missed Portrait of Jason. The auditorium is full of heads bobbing, nodding, and laughing so I hang out at the stairs for a bit. At 5:45 there’s some room, so I squeeze in next to two women who smile as they make place for me. My toe pokes the big man’s bum in front of me but he either doesn’t care or doesn’t mind but I hug my toe and protect his bum from it for the rest of the evening.
Ladies & Gentlewomen by Malini Jeevarathnam begins, and I am not prepared for the heart fail I’m going to have in the next hour. When Joshua Muyiwa introduces it, he says the director intended the documentary to be watched by Indian parents.
The first couple of scenes show a woman with a mic asking random strangers in Chennai if they know what a lesbian is. ‘Ayaaayoo venda pa, no comments’, says a woman who giggles and walks away. ‘Yenna ma, dustbin ah?’ says an uncle on his scooter. The audience erupts in a little volcanoes of laugh. Next to me the woman says what’s wrong with these people why are they laughing?
As the documentary takes us through activists, lesbian couples, and bisexual men – there’s a parallel story of a mythological couple – an upper caste woman and a lower caste woman both in love with each other. They are found out, separated, and ostracised. When they can no longer bear it, they run away and meet each other. They spend some time together before setting themselves on fire and jumping into the well.
I am saddened by their suicide but I cannot stop thinking about how these women held each other – eyes full of love, hands full of trust.
Lesbian relationships are just meant to be. That’s all. It’s the only way that women’s bodies can learn to trust again. But that’s not all. It’s fulfilling in a way that nothing is. Maybe this is my fascination with Ferrante. There’s so much secrecy and violence but there’s also so much love between Lenu-Lila.
I long to walk the streets of Bangalore with a woman in my arms, or I in hers. How will I do it in Basavanagudi? I can. The cows don’t mind as long as there are enough roads for them to plod on. And my suspicion is that all the ajjis here are closeted lesbians anyway. So we are basically full of lesbians and cows – just like the rest of the world.
A woman in a yellow kurta smiles into the camera as she says that there’s no space for a man in a lesbian relationship and that’s the best thing about it.
Smiles. Hearts. Giggles. A lot of women nod loudly.
The other couples in the documentary inspire similar feelings and by the end of the documentary – I am full of joy but am unable to understand why I’m also a little sad.
A middle-aged bisexual man says – ‘Just because I’m bisexual doesn’t mean I’ll say yes to sex to whoever asks me. See, this is the misconception. Queer people aren’t with each other only for sex. Like heterosexual relationships, they are also about eating, sleeping, walking, and doing other things together.’
The first thing that Malini Jeevarathnam says when she takes stage amidst the roar of cheers and applause – is ‘I don’t know English’
The applause grows louder and some people from behind me scream ‘It’s okayyy’
“I am happy and full of tears”, she says. And the audience says – ‘us too’
It’s the only way to feel after you’ve watched this documentary. So much so that my stomach craved love so I went up to the café, drank wine and stuffed my face with potatoes.
Sounds – On screen – the crackling of fire as the many couples jump to their deaths, the sound of waves as lovers walk hand-in-hand by the sea.
Off Screen – applause, hoots, cheers from the audience. The sound of my heart breaking into millions of pieces. The tch tches I imagine my father would produce if he were in the auditorium.
Ein Weg (Paths) – German, Directed by Chris Miera
The mattresses are mostly empty so I plonk my bum right in between – head is dizzy with wine.
I begin watching and am surprised by my focus on the faces of the two men on screen – Andreas and Martin. I watch as they scratch their noses, and hold their chins when they skype with each other. I am soon obsessed with the closed windows of the house. I see that it opens just the one time in the film – when they both fight and one of them leaves and the other puts his head out the window and begs him to come back. I am familiar with the sounds of the house now. The sounds it makes when they fight and stomp feet, when they make love and their bedsheets ruffle, and when they make tea, and when they clean.
So strange no? That when you watch a film, you too begin to live in the same house as them.
Sounds – House, Baltic Sea, crickets, and trees.
Today, I see the festival itself, not the films. I am sitting in the projector room with the organisers. I watch as the tension, and the anxiety of running festivals unfolds before me. Delays, Subtitles not working heart attacks, people queuing up to watch films – line growing and growing.
Irattajeevitham – Malayalam, Suresh Narayanan
Favourite scene in the film is when Sainu and Amina take off someone’s boat out into the sea. Sainu is shit scared and tells Amina let’s go back. Amina is thrilled because she can’t believe they are floating in the middle of the sea and can’t stop squealing. As they row back to the shore, a crowd has gathered to wait to see if they’ll return alive. Because not one of the boys in the town has had the balls to take a boat out like that with no experience.
Sounds – Sea, Kerala, Trees, Birds, waves, crickets.
The Ice-cream killer – Ukraine, Anna Wasswerwoman
The second half of the day, I sit demurely, in the back. It’s noisier here. Because I understand that people are full of opinions here.
This is my favourite film of the day. The film is five minutes long and shows a woman devouring an entire ice cream for five minutes. It’s a thick cone with Vanilla ice cream. The melted bits fall on the street and the camera zooms in on that for a while.
How often do you see this?
I love watching women eat. Die if you don’t.
Behind me two men loudly bemoan the choice of films. They haven’t liked a single film since morning, they want to talk to the selection committee, and they leave in a huff. I want to scream after them –you forgot your male privilege here boys, you’ll need it – take your opinions with you please, they are stinking up the whole place here.
Behind me, a woman tells her friend in Kannada to sit chakkla mukkla to ease her cramps. I think back to when the last time I listened to that phrase was. Very long.
All my love to the organisers of #BQFF2018. Keep doing what you guys are doing. Because it makes men leave in a huff.