Mist’s Queer and Allies Art Festival takes the discussion of LGBTQIA+ rights beyond the community

Breaking the bubble

If the dialogue surrounding sexuality, gender identity, diversity and rights exist only within the LGBTQIA+ community, the point of having it — to spread awareness — takes a significant hit. The Queer and Allies Art Festival, organised by Pune-based organisation Mist, aims to change this with its interesting line up of screenings and discussions meant for allies as much as the community, in the city this weekend.

The event that took shape five years back, is travelling to Chennai for the second time. After observing many of the community’s events, Mist realised that a lot of them feature the same artists over and over again. Moreover, the target audience is mostly the LGBTQIA+ community and not its allies. “Usually, friends and families don’t turn up for queer events which makes the idea of spreading awareness and empowerment almost futile. Another thing is that when people know that a queer event is happening, many of them from outside the community don’t attend in the fear of being ‘tagged’ queer,” says Shyam Konnur, founder and director of Mist, adding that these observations lent shape to an inclusive arts festival.

“There is also a lot of politics within the community across India. If one’s ideology does not match with another, they will not attend the event,” continues Shyam. Art from across the country — both visual and performing, international and Indian films, panel discussions and open mics form this one-day event. Mist has been hosting such this event for five years now, but not consecutively. There are factors in which, the event aims to help.

Shyam also believes that a lot of documentary films on queer identity and its aspects end up going only to film festivals. This restricts their reach. “They are often not accessible to audiences who want to have conversations around such films. This art festival gives filmmakers that exposure where they can take it to smaller cities. The artistes also get to travel,” says Shyam. The festival wishes to stray away from the often-seen trend of taking the artistes’ work for granted and not paying them. However, with the limited amount of funding they get, this wish has not yet been actualised.

With this edition, Mist wants to spur a critical discussion on how mainstream corporates and other entities have celebrated the reading down of Section 377 by changing their logos and introducing slogans. “How much do they all mean it, is what we would like to look at,” says Shyam.

The festival starts with the screening of short films and documentaries related to the LGBTQIA+ community from 12 pm to 4 pm. This will be followed by a discussion on the importance of mental health. “We want to debunk the stigma around mental health and would like to engage the community and its allies in the conversation.” Sessions around youth leadership and a panel discussion titled Honest Conversations on Diversity and Inclusivity will also be held. The evening will close with a more relaxed session of open mics, dance performances and poetry readings.

Queer and Allies Art Festival will be held on November 10, from 12 pm to 8 pm at Erisha Auditorium, OMR, Kandanchavadi. Participants can register for the open-mic evening at http://lgbtq.co.in/qaaf/ perform-at-qaaf.

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