We present the winner of the 13th KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival which took place from June 1 – 5, 2022.
Best Narrative Feature
Naanu Ladies revolves around two women who fall in love and attempt to break away from a hetero-normative culture, fighting the struggles of a middle class life. The film attempts to relook at the Marriage and parenting systems in India and its socio-political effects on queer love. (KASHISH2022)
This film dives headfirst into the exploration of what it means to be queer and feminist, going beyond relationships and assertion of identity – though it has both – to question heteronormativity and explore individual fulfilment. For its fierce forthright energy, for its outspokenness, for its critique of the traps of heteronormativity, for its exploration of what it could mean to live a queer live, for its unabashed performances, for its playful embrace of popular culture including a most awesome dance sequence, for its statement on individual fulfilment vis-a-vis relationships, and for the smile it brought to our faces, the jury unanimously awards the Best Narrative Feature Award to NAANU LADIES directed by Shailaja Padindala.
Wet Sand takes place in a small Georgian village at the Black Sea with friendly people who help each other and believe to know each other. One day Eliko (65) commits suicide. His granddaughter Moe (26) is called from the city to take care of the funeral. Step by step she gets confronted with a web of lies. For 22 years Eliko has been living his love in secret. His love with another man, the owner of the local restaurant. The true dimensions of the tragedy make Moe free her own ability to love. The truth, however, ruins the reality of the villagers and they are provoked to take a stand. Wet Sand is a call for the freedom to love, regardless of the gender. It is a call for the courage to stand up. And it tells the story of two men in love with each other who were burnt to be forgotten (KASHISH2022)
The jury would also like to give a SPECIAL MENTION to the exceptional, sensitively staged film that remarkably brings forth the complexities of love and identity across different generations of queer folks, elegantly using cinematic elements – sound, music, framing and casting – to tackle the many layers of social, political and religious constructs in the Georgian seaside town – to WET SAND by Elene Naveriani.
Best Indian Narrative Short
During the 2002 Godhra riots in Gujarat, India, 30-year-old Samir, while cruising, finds Rafiq, a Muslim boy, hiding in the bushes. Being chased by a Hindu mob, Rafiq follows Samir, who manages to smuggle Rafiq into his workshop. Annoyed by Rafiq’s refusal to Samir’s advances, Samir throws Rafiq out of his house, only later to find a terrified Rafiq who has managed to sneak back in. Can Samir save Rafiq from the angry mob waiting outside? (KASHISH2022)
The jury was deeply moved and equally surprised by this brave film that takes the queer discourse a critical step further. Throwing together two marginalised individuals – one by faith and the other by gender and sexuality – it asks questions of what their relation to each other might be in the context of crisis. Refusing simplistic categories of good and evil, hero and villain, the situations in the film are unpredictable from the start, unfolding with honesty and vulnerability, foregrounding kindness and humanity as a choice to be made. A huge round of applause for the film which the Jury unanimously decided to be the winner of the BEST INDIAN NARRATIVE SHORT 2022 – MUHAFIZ, written, directed and produced by Pradipta Ray.
Special Jury Mention
Based in a small village in Kutch, India; 10-year-old Mukti wishes to swim in the newly filled lake, after a drought spanning for years. A seemingly simple wish turns to an unexpected discovery about himself, which causes him to question himself, the stigma around it, and his wish to swim in the lake. (KASHISH2022)
The jury would also like to give a SPECIAL MENTION to DAL BHAT by Nemil Shah for its queer theme and focus on children, it’s authentic setting, pitch perfect casting, heartfelt performances and the ever so slight but powerful queering of stock characters.
A screenplay that first surprises you with its brave twists and turns and then delivers a heartfelt message of humanity. A screenplay that is not afraid to be brutal but is also not afraid to be vulnerable. This screenplay navigates multiple issues and complexities without for a moment getting judgmental or didactic. Set in the backdrop of communal violence where the hatred for the ‘other’ prevails, the screenplay cleverly places two marginalized characters in one space, one fighting for life/survival and the other for space and acceptance. For raising uncomfortable questions and for addressing them, the jury unanimously elected for the BEST SCREENPLAY AWARD, the screenplay of MUHAFIZ by Pradipta Ray and Ashutosh Pathak!
Best Performance in a Lead Role
Hikari Shintani (Yu Ishizuka), a trans woman, works at an ornamental fish company and lives alone in Tokyo. While occasionally feeling an indescribable distance between herself and others, she enjoys the company of her trans women friends and workmates. One day, Hikari returns to her hometown for a business trip. To reveal her true self as a woman, she gathers her courage and texts her old classmate Takashi, a long-unrequited love from high school. (KASHISH2022)
An exceptional performance that gives life to a lived experience has the power to move you. Often their honest and compassionate portrayals force us to look at the already existing aspects of this world with a fresh pair of eyes. This performer made us look at what it means to have social space made for you without acceptance and understanding, the loneliness of always being seen as the ‘other’, the relief of accepting spaces and people, and the dignity of spirit which keeps your head held high nevertheless. For her understated and powerful performance, where the smallest of gestures and expressions spoke volumes, the jury is delighted to award Best Performance In A Lead Role to YU ISHIZUKA in the film The Fish With One Sleeve.
Best International Narrative Short
A Syrian migrant working as a crane operator in Beirut volunteers to cover a shift on one of the most dangerous cranes, where he is able to find his freedom. (KASHISH2022)
It is rare that a film manages to surprise so utterly, where you are absolutely unprepared for what comes next – and when it does come, you are gobsmacked with its beauty and proposition. For its brilliant juxtaposition of the suffocation of the life of a working class man and the utter beauty of the freedom he finds a way to experience, if only for a small window of time, the jury unanimously awards the Best International Narrative Short to WARSHA by Dania Bdeir
Special Jury Mentions
A visual short coming of age story of young boy Bram discovering his sexuality. acceptance. (KASHISH2022)
For the painter’s canvas that he makes the film, for his moving navigation of realism, metaphor and silence to capture the queer journey from withholding identity to embracing it, the jury special mention goes to BREATHE by Harm van der Sanden.
For its elegantly delivered narrative that reveals the social system’s resistance to the integration of the transgender subject, even as it seems to make space, the jury special mention goes to THE FISH WITH ONE SLEEVE by Tsuyoshi Shôji.
Riyad Wadia Award for Best Emerging Indian Filmmaker
For its theme which is both bold and sensitively handled; for a film that is beautifully conceptualized and executed, with sensitive direction and performances, especially from the children, with strong cameos from other performers, and for its very unusual setting the jury has decided to award the Riyad Wadia Award for Best Emerging Indian Filmmaker to NEMIL SHAH for his film Dal Bhat.
Special Jury Mention
Saga Minde for Her Canvas – India | 2022 – 9 minutes
On a cloudy melancholy evening Myra a visual artist experiences an overwhelming surge of emotions. Hinged between past and present she tries to make sense of reality around her. Deeply drenched in fantasy and memories she reflects on her relationship with Surbhi.
The film captures the relationship between two queer women at the edge of the partition of India in 1947. Narrated through a letter, it tells the story of longing for a relationship that is doomed in several ways – their love misunderstood, the patriarchy shackling their dreams and their romance split at heart by the partition and inevitable separation of them. In the lap of big ideas of liberty and hope created by those in power, this film captures two women, their desperation and their hope in the face of it all. (KASHISH2022)
Unity in Diversity Best Documentary Feature
Bamby Salcedo, a nationwide undocumented transgender Latina human rights activist, organizes her 50th birthday celebration attended by people significant to her life and survival. As she prepares for the event, Bamby travels through LA county and watches her life go past; from the streets where she smoked crack and the Men’s County Jail where she was raped to journalists and academics she has enlisted to her causes, plush homes of supporters, and communities and organizations she has gathered to change the life of transgender people in the United States. The film reveals the great story of strength and joyful celebration of life that is powered by acceptance of the most painful past experiences to make a real difference for others and oneself. (KASHISH2022)
For telling the engrossing story of a 50 years old transgender, trans-activist, and undocumented immigrant living in the USA; for its craft & narrative structure, as the film moves between the past & the present and reveals her story – from her traumatic childhood in Mexico, her escape to the USA, gender transition and her tireless work for the trans community. The film touches upon multiple issues and politics in a nuanced way, bringing out the human side of the story. We fall in love with the central character as we watch her live through a difficult but flamboyant life, a life that moves from the margins to the mainstream, through sheer perseverance. Hence, the award for Unity in Diversity Best Documentary Feature goes to LA QUEENCIAÑERA by Pedro Piera
Special Jury Mention
Nabi, a veteran fire officer, accepts the coming out from her child Hankyeol, “I want to remove my breasts.” Meanwhile, Vivian, a flight crew, receives a letter from her son Yejoon, “Mom, I’m gay.” Hankyeol and Yejoon confide in their struggles even before the two mothers understand their reality. (KASHISH2022)
For highlighting and unfolding the lives of its characters, in a quiet, nuanced way, as they go through gender transition, come out to their families or try to find love within the complexities of South Korean society, where social acceptance of the LGBTQ community is still difficult and same sex marriage is not possible; the jury lauds the film for its compassionate focus on parental relationships of the protagonists, which is done with humour & pathos; and for celebrating mothers, in all their glory & contradictions – the Special Jury Mention, Documentary Feature goes to the film COMING TO YOU by Gyuri Byun.
Unity in Diversity Best Documentary Short
Mashrou’ Leila are indie rock gods in the Arab world. But their fame comes with a price. In a part of the world where singing about politics or sexuality is more than a little risky — and with an openly gay lead singer — Mashrou’ Leila’s very existence and success is unprecedented. Beirut Dreams In Color bring us the timely story of an unlikely band, a daring fan, and the harrowing repercussions sparked when their lives intersect. (KASHISH2022)
For its powerful story that focuses on the reality of queer rights in Lebanon & Egypt through the intertwined stories of Masrou’ Leila the popular Lebanese indie rock band, with an openly gay band member; and Sarah Hegaz an Egyptian, lesbian activist & their fan. The Jury lauds the film for its compassionate insight into the three main protagonists, as they face the consequence of speaking up for LGBTQ rights, in societies that penalise & persecute – the loneliness, isolation, exile that befalls all of them, and tragic death for one of them. The jury is moved by the film’s quiet message of hope, that the power of music & rebellion can seep into society & slowly bring change. Hence the award for Best Documentary Short, goes to BEIRUT DREAMS IN COLOUR by Michael Collins
Special Jury Mention
Gaston is a young man who wants to find the clown that animated his 3 year old birthday party, of which he has photos in an old album that he finds in a box in his house. His mother resists the idea but finally helps him. The clown from that remote birthday now has her new life as Marcel, a trans woman who runs her flower shop next to the cemetery in Nogoyá, Entre Rios. The encounter between Gastón and Marcel unleashes a series of memories and reflections on the past and present of their, and produces a re-signification in what it means to change from child to adult and from man to woman. (KASHISH2022)
For its unusual story & characters – a beautiful story of a man who tries to find the clown whom he remembers from his 3rd birthday party. And whose photo, he holds on to. The clown now has a new life as Marcel a trans woman, running a flower shop. Their meeting is poignant. The jury appreciates the film as it celebrates the power of imagination & memories. And the message that we can bridge all gaps when we listen to the human instinct within us and follow the path of love. The Special Jury Mention Documentary Short goes to the film MARCELLA by Gaston Calivari.
Best Student Short
During a short spring break after The Third Solar Term (惊蛰 jīngzhé), Qizhe returns home to visit his mother. After meeting a man from the internet, he began to lose control of his double life. One that was living true to himself and the other, pretending to be the perfect son. (KASHISH2022)
To a soft queer film, one that shows desire as erotic, confused, and layered, to a sensitive and a subtle film about how should a mother react to a son’s coming out, how should the son react to mother’s reaction, how to enable a safe space to take up responsibilities and encourage agency. For the nuance of the emotions shown and the quiet humour, the jury unanimously awards the Best Students Short Film to THE THIRD SOLAR TERM by Zhanfei Song
Special Jury Mention
At a banquet hall in Israel, at the height of a war, Adam Weizmann’s bar mitzvah party turns into a glorious catastrophe. On the cusp of manhood-and on the verge of a nervous breakdown-Adam takes a crucial step toward coming to terms with his sexuality. (KASHISH2022)
The central space of the Bar Mitzwah was used so evocatively to pull together different strands of stories, producing a multi-layered film that touches on gender, linguistic differences, and the tragedy of age and love – the jury has decided to award a special jury mention to MAZEL TOV by Eli Zuzovsky.