April 20, 2017 at 1:58 pm EDT | by Brian T. Carney
New ‘Countries and Closets’ film explores ‘corrective rape’ phenomenon in India
Sayavati, gay news, Washington Blade

Director Deepthi Tadanki working on her debut film ‘Satyavati.’ (Photo courtesy Reel Affirmations)

Reel Affirmations
Friday, March 21
7 and 10 p.m.
HRC Screening Room
1640 Rhode Island Ave., N.W.

This Friday, April 21, Reel Affirmations will host the world premiere of “Satyavati,” a powerful new film by first-time Indian filmmaker Deepthi Tadanki.

The movie is part of the “Countries and Closets” series that will present films that explore the lives of individuals who live in countries where to be LGBT is illegal or banned. Kimberley Bush, who was recently named director of arts and cultural programs at the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, says, “It is important to me to screen films that depict the more neglected, marginalized and underrepresented cultures and ethnic groups of our community. Especially in the current political climate, I feel awareness can create change.”

After earning a business degree and working as an assistant director for MTV and on several corporate films, Tadanki decided to strike out on her own. She had become aware of the horrific practice of “corrective rape” where family members arrange for relatives and friends of the family to rape lesbians to “cure” them.

Given the combined stigmatization of gays and rape victims, Tadanki was unable to speak directly with any victims of corrective rape or firmly document statistics about the crime.

“Case studies across the globe,” Takanki says, “have chronicled cases of corrective rape on women who’ve been discovered to be lesbians and as heinous as it may sound — the immediate kith and kin of the girl permit strangers to let the girl get raped, foolishly assuming that that is the only corrective measure for their girl to be cured from lesbianism and she will start thinking ‘normally.’”

Filmed in the Indian city of Bangalore, “Satyavati” is about a trio of female friends. Two are a lesbian couple and the third is their straight friend. When the family of the straight woman mistakenly assume that she is in an “unnatural” relationship with her friends, they arrange for a corrective rape of the women by the girl’s uncle and several of his friends.

Over several agonizing months and with the fervent support of the queer community in Bangalore, Tadanki was able to crowdsource her film. She also created a social media campaign #ISupportSatyavati to raise awareness about homophobia in India. Supporters were asked to post a picture along with captions calling for the stigma around homosexuality to be destroyed (#stopcorrectiverape and #acceptsexuality). Supporters and activists can still create their own image at isupportsatyavati.

“The film is a work of fiction and not a documentary,” Tadanki says. “The primal focus of making this film is to let the audience understand that lesbianism is not a disease that needs to be cured; it is as natural as heterosexuality.”

In crafting her story, Tadanki and her creative team had to, “be careful about the plot of the story, the sensitivity of the subject and the characters in the story and other minute details concerning the dialogues exchanged and even the expressive interjections used by the characters.”

She says the film is ultimately a statement on issues of humanity that supersede culture.

“(I hope it) manages to open a debate about the tragic realities it speaks about and changes the mindset of at least a few individuals, it could be termed a success,” she says.

When the movie screens as part of XTRA, the Reel Affirmations monthly film series, the discussion will be led by Rayceen Pendarvis, host of the popular “Ask Rayceen Show.”

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