#FiveFilmsForFreedom returns for its eighth year

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The British Council, in partnership with BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival, will make available five LGBTIQ+ themed short films to watch online for free, over an 11-day period.

Between March 16 and 27, a collection of stories from countries such as India, China, the UK, Croatia and Panama will be presented in #FiveFilmsForFreedom.

Through these films, the audience will get to know more about the emerging LGBTQI+ cinema across the world and understand the life and challenges faced by the community with themes including immigration, intimacy and isolation.

In India, the British Council has partnered with The Queer Muslim Project, South Asia’s largest virtual network of Queer, Muslim and allied individuals, to celebrate and amplify the films.

In addition to the films being shown online, they will be screened across various cities such as Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Kharagpur, Kolkata and Guwahati.

The offline screenings are being co-hosted with some of the largest LGBTQIA+ student-led groups across three premier Indian universities. The curation also includes a series of reels and Instagram Live with popular Queer creators and youth media platforms, such as ‘Yuvaa’ and ‘We the Young India and Gaysi Family’, along with roundtable discussions featuring renowned filmmakers, and open mics.

Over 17 million people from more than 200 countries have viewed the #FiveFilmsForFreedom programme since its launch in 2015. This continues to include online engagement in countries where homosexuality can be prosecuted and, in some cases, punishable by death. The campaign further addresses the language barrier typically associated with international content, by providing subtitles in local languages such as Hindi.

Mumbai filmmaker Arun Fulara’s debut short film ‘Sunday’ is part of this year’s #FiveFilmsForFreedom selection. The film, which has already travelled widely to more than 50 world festivals, examines the desire and loneliness of a middle-aged man on his weekly visit to the barbers.

Speaking about ‘Sunday’, and the #FiveFilmsForFreedom campaign, Arun Fulara said, “‘Sunday’ is a deeply personal film that came out of my own experience of loneliness and lack of intimacy in the urban sprawl that is Mumbai. To see the film transcend borders and touch so many people across the world is a testimony to how similar we all are, whatever culture and nationality we may belong to.

“The film started its journey just as the pandemic began and has, therefore, I feel, touched a raw nerve in these times of forced isolation and distancing. Being a part of the #FiveFilmsForFreedom campaign is a huge honour and deeply gratifying for our small team. While I am extremely glad that people across the world will now be able to see our film, I hope there comes a time when stories like this cease to be a reality.”

Other films include British-Nigerian Director Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor’s short film ‘For Love’, which focuses on illegal immigrant N. Kechi and the unique challenges she faces due to her sexual identity; Croatian comic artist and animation-director Marko DjeAika’s animation film ‘All Those Sensations In My Belly’, which follows the story of trans gir Matia’s transition and her quest for love; Panamanian Director Judith Corro’s first film as scriptwriter and director, ‘Birthday Boy’ (Vuelta al Sol), a story about parents denying their son’s identity as a young trans man; and Chinese Director Hao Zhou’s ‘Frozen Out’, an experimental short film that combines scenes from rural Iowa and rural China to explore anxiety, dislocation and self-exile.

Jonathan Kennedy, Director-Arts India, British Council, said, “Throughout the world, #FiveFilmsForFreedom presents diverse and unique stories from some cutting edge LGBTIQ+ filmmakers. With our partners in India and the UK, we aim to achieve greater empathy for and solidarity with the LGBTIQ+ community with thought-provoking short dramas on film.”

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