British Council announced the seventh edition of Five Films for Freedom, world’s largest LGBTIQ+ digital campaign. The campaign welcomes audiences everywhere to watch the five films online in solidarity with LGBTIQ+ communities in places where freedom and equal rights are limited, and to spread the word using the hashtag #FiveFilmsForFreedom.

Self-expression, homophobia in rural communities, coming out as a teenager, and finding love later in life – this year’s short films look at an intersection of LGBTIQ+ perspectives to explore love and acceptance.

Broadcasting five brand new LGBTIQ+ films to countries around the world, this year’s programme showcases queer storytelling from India, Spain, Sweden, USA and the UK. The festival’s short film selection includes an Indian film this time. Titled, Bodies of Desire, and directed by Varsha Panikar and Saad Nawab, the movie uses Panikar’s work as the basis for a visual, poetic film capturing four sets of lovers in a sensual celebration of genderless love and desire.

In India, 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 LGBTIQ+ stories, voices and people.

In Assam, British Council has partnered with Anaajoree, a non-profit organisation based out of Guwahati, and Poetry Couture, to organize screenings in Guwahati and Tezpur. Anaajoree has collaborated with the Department of Cultural Studies in Tezpur to host a screening at the Tezpur University, followed by a discussion with faculty members on March 26 at 2 PM IST.

Over 15 million people from more than 200 countries have viewed the Five Films For Freedom programme since its launch in 2015.

Especially for Indian audiences, the five films on the LGBTIQ+ theme, will also be streamed on Jio Cinema, one of India’s leading video on-demand streaming services. This year, the campaign further addresses the language barrier typically associated with international content, by providing subtitles in local languages such as Hindi.

Online Digital Storytelling Workshop for LGBTIQ+

British Council has roped in Pushpa Joshi, a young feminist activist from Nepal, to run a workshop for young LGBTIQ+ artists and creators based in India and Nepal. The 2-day online Digital Storytelling workshop is designed to equip participants with the skills needed to tell their stories in a digital format. The workshop will explore a range of themes from online security and safety to creating shared community spaces, and learning the basic elements of a script, writing practice, and narration. Participants will be provided with technical support so that they are able to produce their own digital story (in the form of a 3-minute film) either during or after the workshop.

At the launch, Jonathan Kennedy, Director Arts India, British Council, said: “The Five Films For Freedom campaign continues to gather a wider audience and deeper engagement with people across the world. We are glad that we have partners with whom we share our purpose of achieving greater inclusion and solidarity for the LGBTIQ+ community.”

Rafiul Alom Rahman, Founder & Director of The Queer Muslim Project adds: “We are truly honoured to be collaborating with the British Council to create a space that celebrates community, creativity, self-expression and love. We have put a lot of thought into the curation for this year, and have an exciting range of community screenings and creative engagements planned across India, which we hope will encourage discussions on queer issues and experiences in the world of cinema and art.”

Five Film For Freedom programme 2021:

  • Bodies of Desire (India/Dir. Varsha Panikar & Saad Nawab/3 mins), directed by Varsha Panikar and multi-award-winner Saad Nawab, uses Indian poet Panikar’s work as the basis for a visual, poetic film capturing four sets of lovers in a sensual celebration of genderless love and desire.
  • Land of the Free (Sweden/Dir. Dawid Ullgren/10 mins) – Ullgren’s tense Swedish drama follows the fictionalDavid and friends as they celebrate his birthday with a nightly swim at the beach. The good mood swiftly changes after two straight couples walk by and laugh – was the laughter directed at them, or something else? Who owns the truth of exactly what happened?
  • Pure (USA/Dir. Natalie Jasmine Harris/12 mins) is the fictional debutfrom2020 Directors Guild of America Student Film Award winner Natalie Jasmine Harris, centring on a young Black girl grappling with her queer identity and ideas of ‘purity’. The film is written, produced and directed by Harris – a filmmaker passionate about the intersection between filmmaking and social justice.
  • Trans Happiness is Real (UK/Dir. Quinton Baker/8 mins)– a moving documentary from first-time filmmaker Quinton Baker – sees transgender activists take to the streets of Oxford, England to fight anti-trans sentiments using the power of graffiti and street art.
  • Victoria (Spain/Dir. Daniel Toledo/7 mins) followsa bittersweet reunion between a trans woman and her ex, sparking tension and long buried resentment.Directed by award-winning filmmaker, Daniel Toledo, Victoria also features acclaimed trans actress, writer and director Abril Zamora (The Life Ahead, The Mess You Leave Behind).

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