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Enabling desire

A set of film screenings in Mumbai aims to highlight stories of disability and sexuality

A still from Jennifer Brea’s ‘Unrest’.
A still from Jennifer Brea’s ‘Unrest’.

In 2016, the Mumbai-based feminist non-profit Point of View collaborated with the Mumbai Film Festival to hold an inclusive screening, for the blind and sighted, with detailed audio descriptions, of Milind Dhaimade’s Tu Hai Mera Sunday. The screening and subsequent interaction with the makers were hugely successful, and there was a similar screening, of the Ektara Collective’s Turup, at the festival the following year. Now, Point of View is organizing a programme of inclusive film screenings, mostly centred on disability and sexuality, from 11am-9pm on 17 February.

Skin Stories: love. desire. disability will be held at Daughters of St Paul, Bandra, Mumbai, a full-access venue for persons with disabilities. The titles being screened range from full-length features to erotic shorts. The best-known among these should be the American films The Sessions—with Helen Hunt as a sex surrogate who helps John Hawkes’ polio patient, in an iron lung and paralysed from the neck down, lose his virginity—and Still Alice, with Julianne Moore in an Oscar-winning performance as a linguistics professor dealing with the onset of Alzheimer’s.

A particularly apt inclusion, in its encompassing of cinema and disability, is Jennifer Brea’s documentary Unrest (on Netflix), about her experience with myalgic encephalomyelitis, a condition which leaves the patient fatigued and unable to perform normal physical functions. Brea directed the film from her bed. “We found technological ways to make film-making accessible to me given those disabilities," she told the entertainment website Deadline.

“At Sexuality and Disability, we do the work of amplifying the narratives of people with disabilities so as to bust the myth that people with disabilities are necessarily non-sexual, and challenge the stigma that leads to the assumption that they should be," Shreya Ila Anasuya, managing editor of Skin Stories, the online publication of Point of View’s Sexuality and Disability initiative, says in an event note. The idea that disabilities of various kinds preclude sexual possibilities is a damaging myth, one addressed only occasionally in Indian cinema, in fiction films like Margarita With A Straw and documentaries like Accsex and Mindscapes Of ...Love And Longing. This programme should come as a reminder that love and desire aren’t only for the abled.

For the screening details, visit here

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