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Kerala Film Fest Starts With Voice Against Misogyny, Bhavana Gets Standing Ovation

Kurdish filmmaker Lisa Calan was honoured and Bhavana, fighting a sexual assault case, was the chief guest.
Kerala Film Fest Starts With Voice Against Misogyny, Bhavana Gets Standing Ovation

Image Courtesy: Mathrubhumi English

Thiruvananthapuram: The 26th International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) kicked off on Friday with a strong socio-political statement amid the presence of Kurdish filmmaker Lisa Calan, who had lost both legs in an Islamic State bombing in 2015, and south Indian actor Bhavana, who has emerged as an icon of the struggle against misogyny in the Malayalam movie industry. 

Calan was honoured with the newly introduced ‘Spirit of Cinema Award’ by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who had earlier inaugurated the seven-day festival, where more than 180 movies from Asian, African, Latin American and European countries will be screened at 14 theatres of the state capital.

I came a long way to come here. My story is also long. But I can see we have the same story. I have a good feeling because of your high energy. Thank you. I am so excited. All I’ve wanted to do is make films,” Calan, whose short film The Tongue of Mountains will be screened at the IFFK, said while accepting the award.

Recounting how she couldn’t make movies for several after losing her legs, Calan said, “In 2015, I lost my legs in an ISIS bomb attack. I survived it but had to suspend my cinema work. It took me several years to start working again. But now, I am fully recovered and full of energy.”

Supporting feminism and gender equality, Calan said that Kurdish women “stand against patriarchy and every kind of gender violence. The resistance of Kurdish women against ISIS has inspired the whole world. I greet you on behalf of all Kurdish women”.

Vijayan noted that Calan, who has hit back at terrorism and racism through her films, had made progressive use of the medium of cinema. “Lisa deserves the Spirit of Cinema Award, and by honouring her, all the action for the upliftment of women is also being honoured,” he said.  

Hindi director and chief guest Anurag Kashyap congratulated Kerala for “standing up to the bullies” as against Bollywood, where “movies distort history”. “It is very overwhelming for me to see this love. I came dressed up for the fest but not the stage. My closest collaborators are from Kerala. I make Hindi films. Where we are distorting history, Kerala is chronicling the times we live in. I think the best of Indian cinema comes from God’s Own Country. You have inspired me so much. Congratulations for always standing up to the bullies,” he said.

Bhavana, who was introduced as the special guest and a ‘symbol of resistance’ by Chalachitra Academy chairman Ranjith, got a standing ovation from the audience. Her presence is being seen as a strong socio-political statement by the ruling Left government with Vijayan saying that the state government stands with women in the film industry.

Bhavana has been fighting for justice in the 2017 sexual assault case against Dileep, one of the powerful actors in the Malayalam film industry. She recently announced her comeback to Malayalam cinema five years after the 2017 assault case. 

Bhavana is a role model for Kerala,” said Saji Cherian, minister for film and culture. Bhavana said that she felt delighted to be a part of the IFFK. “To those who create good movies and those who watch good movies and to those like Lisa who fight against all the odds, I would like to convey my very best.”

During an interview with journalist Barkha Dutt last week, Bhavana opened up about her struggle and how it transformed her life. The actor clearly stated how her life evolved from being a victim to a survivor. 

Later, the actor had also penned a touching post on social media. “This has not been an easy journey. The journey from being a victim to becoming a survivor… Now when I hear so many voices speak up for me I know that I am not alone in this fight for justice,” she posted on Instagram.

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