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|May 25, 2000|
Chutney Popcorn adds Indian spice to Toronto gay film festival
Firdaus Ali in Toronto
'Inside Out -- the Toronto Lesbian and Gay Film and Video Festival' opened in the North American city on May 18. One of the largest gay festivals in North America (after San Francisco and New York), it is the city's second largest film event of the year after the Toronto International Film Festival.
The festival marks a milestone this year as it celebrates its tenth anniversary. Some of the film-makers who have gladly identified themselves with the festival are among Canada's more successful directors, like Patricia Rozema, John Greyson and Jeremy Podeswa.
Entries include short films, videos and feature films from across the globe. With the gay movement gaining momentum over the last few years, the festival showcases 320 works dealing with homosexual themes.
Back in 1991 when the festival began, entries included educational and informative films and videos explaining the "queer" issue. Today, the films included are not just serious ones but could have the silliest of titles and perhaps be reflective of a conventional idea based on the "queer" issue.
Festival buffs recollect that in the first few years it was run by a volunteer collective, and open-gay features were still a rarity. Today, organised in collaboration with several homosexual rights groups from across the globe, it has grown in strength and changed in content and agenda.
This year intense, silly, funny and reflective films are being screened in theatres across Toronto. These include 101 Rent Boys, Punks, Revoir Julie and Straightman.
The Indian influence in the festival is strongly felt with Nisha Ganatra's award-winning comedy Chutney Popcorn. Ganatra, a Vancouver-born filmmaker of Indian origin, has written, directed and acted in the film about a woman in New York whose lesbian lifestyle and Indian background clash, creating a parody of sorts.
The 92-minute film is about Reena, a struggling photographer, henna-tattoo artiste and lesbian with a live-in white girlfriend. Reena feels she has nothing on her do-everything-right married older sister Sarita -- except her ovaries, that is.
So when Sarita discovers she can't have children, Reena decides to have one for her. This seems like a good idea at first, but soon all of Reena's relationships - with her lover, sister, mother and brother-in-law -- are redrawn and the doubts start creeping in.
A comedy of errors follows and sensitive issues relating to homosexuals are thrown open. "Chutney Popcorn" is a delightful comedy about the tensions and negotiations between individual desires and parental expectations, American queer lifestyles and Indian immigrant values.
Impressive performances by Ganatra as Reena, Jill Hennessey as her lover Lisa, Sakina Jaffrey as Sarita, Nick Chinlund as Sarita's husband and, in a spectacularly funny portrayal of the mother at her wit's end, award-winning actress and culinary diva Madhur Jaffrey, make the film both memorable and humorous.
Winner of many international prizes, including for best feature film, at both the San Francisco and Los Angeles lesbian and gay film festivals, Chutney Popcorn entertains with both its humour and its heart.
The festival is open in Toronto till May 28.
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