San Francisco to Host LGBT South Asian Arts Festival This Weekend

From August 27 to 28, 3rd i, an organization committed to promoting diverse images of South Asians through independent film, will host its Queer Eye festival in San Francisco, highlighting South Asian LGBT stories through film and live performances.

The festival’s co-curator, Preeti Mangala Shekar, explained that this festival began as a way to celebrate India’s 2009 repeal of section 377 of its Penal Code , a move that decriminalized consensual sex between gay men. She stated that in the wake of this repeal, “the LGBT movement in India is really active now.  It’s a great moment to raise the visibility of the LGBT movement in South Asia here in the diaspora, and to talk about issues affecting the LGBT South Asian community here like gay marriage.  The festival makes these issues visible through the arts, and we hope people from all communities will come to see this work and learn more.”

Still from "Flying With One Wing"

The festival opens Saturday at 7:00 p.m. at Artists’ Television Access with a screening of Flying With One Wing, a Sri Lankan film released in 2002 by Asoka Handagama.  The film, billed as a cross between Fassbinder and Boys Don’t Cry,  depicts the life of ‘Manju,’ a female-bodied mechanic living as a man.  Manju lives in a family-oriented neighborhood with his wife ‘Kusum,’ who is unaware that her husband was not born male.  Manju’s secret is revealed when he’s taken to a clinic after a car accident, spurring a series of events that force him to confront the sexist, homophobic gender politics woven into the fabric of his community.  3rd i’s description of the film promises that the story remains lighthearted and humorous, even as it tackles serious issues.

On Sunday, the festival continues at 5:00 p.m. at the Women’s Building with three live performances and a post-show reception with the artists.

Aniruddhan Vasudevan in "Brihannala"

The evening kicks off with Brihannala, a story incorporating spoken word, classical dance, and music by Chennai-based performer Aniruddhan Vasudevan.  The piece is based on the story of the title character, a eunuch who appears in the ancient Indian epic the Mahabharata, and serves as a platform for Vasudevan to examine depictions of gender and sexuality in Indian history.

Minal Hajratwala

The evening continues with The Seeker and The Unicorn, readings from new works by San Francisco-based writer/performer Minal Hajratwala.  She recently returned from a year-long Fulbright Fellowship in India where she was researching her new novel, which intertwines a storyline about the 15th century devotional poet Mirabai with a futuristic tale set in the 25th century. Hajratwala will also read from her poetry manuscript, The Unicorn at the Racetrack.

Audience members will also get a special ten-minute sneak preview of the Siren Theatre’s upcoming production, Janaki - Daughter of the Dirt, a modern-day interpretation of the ancient Hindu epic the Ramayana.  This version, told from a young woman’s viewpoint, questions traditional depictions of women in ancient Indian society and juxtaposes them with dilemmas facing contemporary South Asian women.

"Janaki - Daughter of the Dirt" | World Premiere | 16 - 18 September from Siren Theatre Project on Vimeo.

Tickets for Saturday’s film are $8 at the door (cash only).  Tickets for Sunday’s performances costs $8-$15 at the door (sliding scale, cash only), and include the post-performance reception.

3rd i's Queer Eye is made possible through a grant from the California Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.