Know Your Rights - 2nd Flashpoint Human Rights Film Festival

Rights of gays, hijras and women take prominence on International Human Rights Day. The four day human rights film festival in the city ends on a note of hope that we all can be agents of change to fight violence and corruption.

"Documentaries are like health food, while commercial cinema is spicy food. Unfortunately people go for the spicy food usually" - Ananth Mahadevan

The last day at the 2nd Flashpoint Human Rights Film festival saw a jam-packed hall with people sitting even in the aisle to participate in a panel discussion about Roots of Violence - LGBT and Gender.

The panelists were award winning filmmaker Ananth Mahadevan, gay activist Pallav Patankar, transgender activist Urmi and festival director Sridhar Rangayan.

Pallav Patankar, Director HIV programmes at Humsafar Trust, felt that even though there is more awareness about the LGBT community in society and many are getting confidence to open up and talk about themselves to their families, very little has changed at the ground level. "There are still no laws an LGBT person can take recourse to access their rights when faced with violence.

"Same-sex relations are not yet recognized in the constitution and the next step is to advocate for those" he said, adding that violence is often not just physical but emotional and psychological as well.

Urmi, who works as a transgender counselor with the Mumbai AIDS Control Society, talked about the violence faced by the Hijra community daily. "It is from both outside and within the community. Most times they are thrown out of their homes and when they join the community, they have no means to earn their living except to beg, dance or do sex work", she said adding "It is difficult to bring them out of this, because they have to get permissions from their Gurus who have traditional ideas about what Hijras can or cannot do."

Moderator for the panel, Sridhar Rangayan added, "However work done by some transgender organizations has been able to help them become self reliant - Hijras now have set up Idli Dosa stalls, started plant nurseries and have even applied to be security guards at Siddhivinayak Temple"!

Bollywood director Ananth Mahadevan, spoke of another kind of violence against women, that of being confined to the home and not being able to make their own choices in their lives.
Mahadevan introduced the his film 'Mee Sindutai Sakpal', about a social worker, who though being uneducated and abandoned by her husband at a very young age, managed to courageously start a home for abandoned children. The film was a fitting closing film for the three day festival, as it bridged the two genres of documentary and cinema. "I wish more people would forget that these are two different formulae in film making and just appreciate good cinema", he said adding that "Sindhutai is such an inspiring person that I just had to make a film on her life. She faced all sorts of violence in her life but still came out of it to give hope to many others".

"Documentaries are like health food, while commercial cinema is spicy food. Unfortunately people go for the spicy food usually" said Ananth Mahadevan, "But I am happy so many people have come to the Flashpoint festival to see good films; so people are opting for healthier food!"

"I am very happy that we had a very large turnout of young people from colleges and universities (40% of total audience turnout) and people from all walks of life. Particularly significant were sharing of personal views by some college students at an Open Mic where they said that corruption begins from within every individual and we need to first tackle it within us, before blaming anyone else. This shows that the younger generation is much more aware and willing to take personal responsibility", said Sridhar Rangayan, Festival director of Flashpoint.

One of the main opinions at the end of the Flashpoint film festival was that these films should not just be shown in cities, but also in smaller towns to make social issue-based films available to all, to spread of awareness, so that exploitation and abuse can end and people can be empowered. "If we don't wipe out this equality between genders right now, it can perpetuate into future generations too and it could be disastrous.", commented an audience member.

The festival's mood and impact could be best summed up by Yadu Narayan, a 76-year old housewife from a small town in Southern India, who saw all the films and wrote in the feedback form, "I didn't know anything about human rights. Living in a small town as I do, one cannot imagine that there are so many problems all over the world. Indian women very rarely take up the fight for rights; they resign to be peaceful at any situation. It was great to see how women have different problems and how they struggle to demand their rights, with courage."

The 4-day Flashpoint Human Rights Film Festival that concluded yesterday was a conscience wake-up call for young and old to take note of human rights issues and act as agents of change.

Categories: Movies

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