‘Kapaemahu’ team brings new animated queer love story ‘Aikāne’ to India

The team behind the acclaimed Hawaiian animated short Kapaemahu is back with a new animated short titled Aikāne.

It is an ancient term for intimate same-sex friends that has taken on new relevance with the worldwide resurgence of anti-LGBTQ hostility. The film Aikāne will have its Indian premiere at Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, South Asia’s biggest LGBTQ film festival, on 11 June.

The visual world of Aikāne was built from the ground up, contrasting the stark landscapes and dizzying cliffs of the land above the surface, the site of conflict, with the rich colours and soothing motion of the sea below, where the heroes fall in love. Academy Award-nominated animator, designer, and co-director Daniel Sousa brings the characters to life with a smooth, flowing style reminiscent of Disney, portraying their emotions through subtle gestures and closeups.

Advocacy for LGBTQ rights was a key motivation for co-directors Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, a married couple whose film careers began with a documentary about the uproar that their own marriage announcement caused in Wilson’s rural hometown. Dan Golden provided the music and sound design for the pantomime film, making good use of underwater sounds captured by Hamer and Wilson in their free-diving expeditions together.

“At a time like this, when kids are being told that they can’t even say the word gay in school, we think that telling a queer love story with a happy ending is a beautiful and necessary form of resistance,” said Wilson.

The team invited legendary actor and trailblazing LGBTQ advocate Judith Light to come on as executive producer. She is much loved by the queer community for her pivotal roles in The Ryan White Story, Transparent, and other films that have brought LGBTQ visibility to the fore. 

“I am honoured to be a part of this transcendent film that brings an inspirational message that love is love is love when it is so profoundly needed,” said Light. “It is a tale of the spirit, transformational and mystical in nature that resonates with love, courage, compassion and community.”

The official synopsis reads: Aikāne tells the story of an island warrior who falls into a strange underwater world after being wounded in battle. When the octopus who rescues him shapeshifts into a handsome young man, sparks fly and an epic adventure begins. Love, trust, and courage are the glue that bind the unlikely couple together in their fierce battle against foreign invaders.

New short Aikāne from the Kapaemahu makers was produced by Hamer and Wilson’s Qwaves in association with Kanaka Pakipika, the production company the couple formed for their trans-Pacific collaborations with Wong-Kalu.

The emphasis on queer love story made the film a good fit for the Kashish festival, founded by noted Indian queer filmmaker Sridhar Rangayan. The theme this year is “Be Fluid, Be You!,” reflecting the aspiration of the current generation to be fluid in their thoughts, actions, and sexualities. The festival will be held between 7 and 11 June at Liberty Cinema and 8 and 10 June at Alliance Française de Bombay.

National Award winning animated short, ‘Maacher Jhol’ to release in theaters in January 2020

The year 2019 is going to end on a great note for Indian independent animator and national award winning filmmaker Abhishek Verma. After bagging a national award for animated short Maacher Jhol, the film is now getting a theatrical release in January 2020. 

Maacher Jhol has found a place amongst ‘Best of Kashish’, a curated program of four Indian LGBTQ short film that has won awards and acclaim at KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival. Best of Kashish will be screened at different PVR multiplex across the country on 21 and 22 January, 2020.

An elated Verma said, “The journey of Maacher Jhol started with Kashish film festival 2017. It won the best short film award at the festival and it was the first award for the film. Post that, the film has been screened and nominated at more than 180 festivals. Infact, it has won 11 national and international awards, including the award for best animated film at 65th National film awards. Looking at the potential of the film, the director of the Kashish film festival Sridhar Rangayan decided to extend his support and included it in many film packages, he was showing and screening across the world. This gave a maximum reach to Maacher Jhol. The film which wins at Kashish also gets nominated for IRIS Prize Cardiff, where they select best LGBTQ shorts all around the world. We’re thankful to him for giving the final throttle so that film reaches the theatre and gets open to commercial model of going to theatre, buy a ticket and watch it. It is being included with three amazing made shorts on LGBTQ which is directed and made by most promising directors in the Industry. But it’s a great sign that Animation film is being included as one of them.”

Besides Maacher Jhol, the other three films are – A Monsoon Date, starring Konkana Sen Sharma that depicts the struggles of a transgender woman to find love; U for Usha which is a beautiful tale of a woman in rural India falling in love with another woman; and Ladli that portrays the struggles of a transgender woman in Delhi to lead a normal life.

Maacher Jhol or The Fish Curry is a about a father’s acceptance of his son’s sexuality. The film in a simple yet metaphoric way, describes the anxieties of the protagonist, a young man, Lalit Ghosh (28) while revealing his sexuality to his father while cooking his favourite dish – fish curry (in bengali, ‘maacher jhol’). 

‘Maacher Jhol’

Talking about the acceptance and social stigma attached to homosexuality in India, Verma added,“There is a big issue in the society for acceptance. I chose to address this theme and wanted the film to be cultural yet universal. So, I chose this dish because it’s a delicious meal that satisfies anybody’s instinct (who eats fish). Here ‘fish’ acts as a connotation and provides more space for symbolism which is interesting to tell a story in more surreal manner. In the film the father carries it from Delhi to Chandigarh. So, we were looking at the dish which can survive for four hours by bus or train and our calculation said that ‘maacher jhol’ would be best. Actually, it’s a mix setup of narrative presented through the metaphor of the curry.”

Co-written by Jayesh Bhosale, this animated short was influenced by Verma’s college friend who came out to him at the end of his college. The film is heavily research oriented and is made in a strong cultural space which was provided by food as it’s the most integral part of the Indian routine space. The film makes a strong statement in the sphere of LGBT community demanding acceptance that it deserves.

Speaking about his feelings that this relevant and important film is finally reaching to the wider cinema craving audience, Verma mentioned, “My biggest concern and heart goes with animation, and how it could find its space into a mainstream cinema, that’s equally being produced and watched. There should be the ways we can start getting little funds so that we can tell stories for mature audience in India through animation. Obviously the National Award gave a boost and there should be ways where we can start producing the film in those directions”

Verma also considers animation as a powerful medium and have been trying a lot to tell socially relevant and moving stories for a few years now. He started  TheMatchbox.co Media along with his friend and animator Piyush Priyadarshi for the same purpose. Their recent successful development has been crowdfunding of the short film Kitchen, which was 130 per cent successful and now the film is in production. They’re also focusing on a few other interesting projects which makes their zeal even more obvious that animation is a powerful tool to narrate a story for mature audience which is true, moving and sincere at the same time. 

Maacher Jhol is coming to Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Nagpur, Hyderabad and Chandigarh.  

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