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Second edition of international human rights film festival ‘Flashpoint’ concluded with the screening of films on topics such as women’s and gay rights.

Burning issue; Transgender activist Abheena Aher (centre) at a panel discussion.Some of the films recently screened on the final day of the festival at Alliance Francaise were Sarabah about female genital mutilation, Bullied about homophobia in colleges and Made in India that deals with the controversial topic of surrogacy.

The three-day film festival concluded with the screening of Nandita Das’ film Firaaq starring Naseeruddin  Shah, Deepti Naval, Paresh Rawal and Shahana Goswami. The film deals with the aftermath of the Gujarat riots.

In her message read out at the screening, Nandita said that the film is a means to stir a dialogue about our own fears, prejudices and responses to violence. “Even after three years since the film was made, it is as relevant and a dialogue about communal violence as important,” she said.

During the three days, 17 films from various parts of the world were screened that take a critical and empathetic look at several human rights issues – from religious fundamentalism, communal violence, crime against women, corruption, poverty and homophobia.

The festival was inaugurated by Feroze Gujral. She says that being a conservative society which is liberalising fast, people in India go through a myriad of emotions in their day to day life while negotiating these contradictions. “It is important to make everyone aware of their rights through festivals like ‘Flashpoint,’” said Feroze.

This year, the festival screened six films that were set in India focusing  on human rights issues and its defenders. The audience was moved by the story on Sindhutai Sapkal, the indomitable “mother” to orphaned children. The event screened Mee Sindutai Sapkal, directed by Anand Mahadevan. “I am glad that the film is screened at a human rights festival as empowerment of women is one of the most urgent issues to be addressed and cinema is a powerful means to do it,” Anand said.

Another film set in India Pink Saris directed by Kim Longinotto was also screened during the festival. The film is an inspiring story of Sampat Pal who founded the ‘Gulabi Gang’ to get abandoned and abused women their rights in Uttar Pradesh. “I was attracted to Sampat Pal’s story as I enjoy watching films about people who are struggling for change,” said Kim.

Sridhar Rangayan, festival director said that it is interesting to see how human rights are perceived in different parts of the world. “The first step towards fighting human rights violation is creating awareness. Only when someone knows there is a problem can one raise a voice and ignite change. What may be more acceptable as a basic human right in one country may be looked upon with anxiety in another country. And an example of this is surrogacy, which is finding acceptance in India but not so in many western countries,” he said.

Participating in a panel discussion on communal and sexual exploitation organised on the last day of the festival, transgender activist Abheena Aher said that violence is not just physical but also physiological. “It starts in the family from the day they discover that a child is different. Then it continues throughout life. I have been struggling to get a PAN card for the last several years but since my sexuality is not recognised in the official forms, I am unable to procure it,” she said.

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