I Am

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I Am chronicles the journey of an Indian lesbian filmmaker who returns to Delhi, eleven years later, to re-open what was once home, and finally confronts the loss of her mother whom she never came out to. As she meets and speaks to parents of other gay and lesbian Indians, she pieces together the fabric of what family truly means, in a landscape where being gay was until recently a criminal and punishable offense.

Duration: 71 minutes
Writer/Director: Sonali Gulati
Editor: Anupama Chandra
Composer: Jen Schwartz
Production Format: 24p, 16mm, and Super 8mm
Language English and Hindi (with English subtitles)

 

AWARDS

SPECIAL JURY AWARD
Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival in India

JURY PRIZE: BEST DOCUMENTARY
Image+Nation Film Festival in Montreal

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Asian Film Festival of Dallas, TX

WINNER: BEST GAY & LESBIAN FILM
Great Lakes International Film Festival

GRAND JURY PRIZE
Asian Film Festival of Dallas, TX

AUDIENCE AWARD
Asian Film Festival of Dallas, TX

BEST DOCUMENTARY
Fargo-Moorhead LGBT Film Festival

BEST DOCUMENTARY
El Lugar Sin Limites Festival de Cine, Ecuador

JURY PRIZE: BEST DOCUMENTARY
Long Island Gay & Lesbian Film Festival

AUDIENCE AWARD:
BEST DOCUMENTARY

Bangalore Queer Film Festival

AUDIENCE AWARD:
BEST DOCUMENTARY

Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival

JURY AWARD:
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Chicago Lesbian & Gay Intl. Film Festival

BEST DOCUMENTARY
Queer Lisboa Film Festival, Portugal

GRAND JURY PRIZE:
BEST DOCUMENTARY

Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles

 

SCREENINGS

Schwules Museum, Berlin, Germany
National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland
GemArts Masala Festival: ALIVE!, Gateshead, UK
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, WI
Café Lavandería, Tokyo, Japan          
Goethe Institute, Washington, DC
Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA
Carleton College, Northfield, MN
Verzio International Human Rights Film Festival, Budapest, Hungary
The Feminist and Women’s Media Festival, Providence, RI
Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Appalachian State University, Boone, NC
Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
Camp Fyrefly Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Identities Queer Film Festival, Vienna, Austria
University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA
Trikone-Chicago Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
Amherst Cinema, Amherst, MA
University of Richmond, Richmond, VA
University of North Carolina, Wilmington, NC
El Lugar Sin Limites Festival de Cine, Guyaquil, Ecuador
El Lugar Sin Limites Festival de Cine, Quito, Ecuador
LGBTQ Festival, Gothenburg, Sweden
Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY
Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY
Everybody’s Perfect Film Festival, Geneva, Switzerland
Goldman Sachs LGBT Network, Bangalore, India
Le Printemps de Cineffable, Montreuil, France
Painting the Spectrum: SASOD’s LGBT Film Festival, Georgetown, Guyana
People, Not Labels, Toronto, Canada
University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
27th Torino LGBT Film Festival, Turin, Italy
8th IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival, New Delhi, India
Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada
Florence Queer Festival, Florence, Italy
Victory Firehouse Theater, Bethlehem, PA
Lesbian Looks Film Festival, Tucson, AZ
Bangalore Queer Film Festival, Bangalore, India
2nd Asian Women's Film Festival, Pondicherry, India
Gender Park Film Festival, Calicut, India
IAWRT Film Festival, Goa, India
26th BFI London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, London, UK
CINHOMO 12th Annual Valladolid LGBT Film Festival, Valladolid, Spain
Gay Community Center of Richmond, VA
YES Film Festival, Columbus, IN
26th Annual MIX Milano Film Festival, Milan, Italy
Some Prefer Cake: Bologna Lesbian Film Festival, Bologna, Italy
Glasgay Film Festival, Glasgow, Scotland
Thessaloniki International LGBTQ Film Festival, Thessaloniki, Greece
API Equality, Satrang, South Asian Network Screening, Los Angeles, CA
26th DOK.fest International Documentary Film Festival, Munich, Germany
Kashish 2011 Award Winners Screening, Mumbai, India
Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Atlanta Film Festival, Atlanta, GA
Riverside International Film Festival, Riverside, CA
Pink Apple Film Festival, Zurich, Switzerland
Boston LGBT Film Festival, Boston, MA
Outview: Athens Intl Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, Athens, Greece
India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, India
Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, Mumbai, India
QDoc Documentary Film Festival, Portland, OR
KalaKranti 2011: A Festival of Queer South Asian Films, Chicago, IL
Chennai Rainbow Pride Festival, Chennai, India
T2F: Second Floor Cafe, Karachi, Pakistan
31st Annual Breckenridge Festival of Film, Breckenridge, CO
8th Annual SouthSide Film Festival, Bethlehem, PA
New Filmmakers / Anthology Film Archives, New York, NY
Frameline San Francisco Intl. LGBT Film Festival, San Francisco, CA
The 21st Lesbian Film Festival of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany
Offside Lounge Screening, Vadodara, India
16th Barcelona International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival Barcelona, Spain 
17th Annual Philadelphia QFest, Philadelphia, PA
Colombo Pride Screening, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Kolkata Rainbow Pride Festival, Kolkata, India
10th Asian Film Festival of Dallas, Dallas, TX
Open Space Screening, Pune, India
CineLABIA Screening, Mumbai, India
Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, Oceana County, MI 
OUTFEST, Los Angeles, CA
Globians Film Fest, Berlin, Germany
23rd Vancouver Queer Film Festival, Vancouver, Canada
SHOUT Gay and Lesbian Film Festival , Birmingham, AL
24th Annual Austin Gay & Lesbian Intl. Film Festival, Austin, TX
Outflix Film Festival, Memphis, TN
Queer Film Festival, Münster, Germany
Center for Communication & Development Studies, Pune, India
Queer Lisboa Film Festival, Lisbon, Portugal
Long Beach Q Film Festival, Long Beach, CA
Queer Film Festival, Cologne, Germany
Great Lakes International Film Festival, Erie, PA
DocMiami 2011, Doral, FL
Bay Street Film Festival, Ontario, Canada
Femmes en Resistance , Arcueil, France
Film South Asia, Kathmandu, Nepal
Tampa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa, FL
Queer Film Festival, Dortmund, Germany
Chicago South Asian Film Festival (Closing Night Film), Chicago, IL
7th Seattle South Asian Film Festival, Seattle, WA
Queer Film Festival, Bremen, Germany
Indian Film Festival, Hague, Netherlands
Tampa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa, FL
Reel Affirmations 20, Washington, DC
San Diego Asian Film Festival, San Diego, CA
New Jersey Independent South Asian Film Festival, Edison, NJ 
16th Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, Seattle, WA
24th Annual Milwaukee LGBT Film & Video Festival, Milwaukee, WI
24th Image + Nation Film Festival, Montreal, Canada
23rd Cineffable Intl. Lesbian and Feminist Film Festival, Paris, France
Pink Panorama Film Festival, Lucerne, Switzerland
Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, Philadelphia, PA
Queer Film Festival, Hamburg, Germany
12th Annual Long Island Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, Huntington, NY
30th Chicago Lesbian & Gay International Film Festival, Chicago, IL
Gay Film Nights International Film Festival, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
Resort on Carefree Boulevard, Ft Myers, Florida
Nigah Queerfest 2011, New Delhi, India
Annual Calcutta LGBT Film & Video Festival, Calcutta, India
Queer Film Festival, Hannover, Germany
Aaina: Seattle Asian Art Museum, Seattle, WA
Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies, CUNY, New York, NY       
i-View Film Festival by Engendered, Lincoln Center, New York, NY



JOIN THE MOVEMENT

Making the film was simply the first step. Screening the film and engaging in dialogue is the second. As a filmmaker and an activist, my hope is that the work that I do has a real impact on people’s lives, whether it is individual, familial and/or communal. I recognize that I cannot do this alone and need your help in getting involved in an effort to push the envelope around the power of film to change people and communities. The subject of gender and sexuality is often not discussed and even silenced. I hope that you will join me in opening up the dialogue by organizing or hosting a screening. I am happy to offer resources such as tips on planning such a screening, a post-screening discussion guide, and volunteer my time to do a post-screening Q&A session via Skype.

 
 

REVIEWS

“The mother of one of the queer young people in Sonali Gulati's stunning film proclaims: "not necessary that you be alone." If there is a take-home point to this loving daughter's elegy to Gulati's own late mother, it is simply affirmation: of queer community and connection, of an emergent queer India, of generational change and understanding, of the power of cinema to transport and transform. Filmed on the eve of the Indian High Court's decriminalization of homosexuality in 2009, I Am movingly records stories of queer lives in contemporary India, lives shaped by contradictory forces of caste and class, tradition and religion, urban activism and rural isolation, media culture and image consciousness, violence and celebration. Eleven years after her mother's death, Gulati returns to Delhi to sort out the stored contents of her family home. With this return as pretext, what she mourns is in fact the sentence she never uttered to her mother, "I am [a lesbian, gay, queer...]. The film is no confessional coming out story, however. It is a layered, formally accomplished, astonishing piece of filmmaking. Students in courses in gender and sexuality studies, South Asian studies, film studies, and filmmaking will learn much from its rigor, documentary innovation, and political insight.”
— Amy Villarejo, Associate Professor
Film and Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Cornell University

“Horace, echoing the sentiments of many a poet and philosopher, said. "If you would have me weep, you must first of all feel grief yourself." Without question, at the crux of Sonali Gulati's film is her ability to personally connect with her interviewees, thus dissolving the barrier between the camera and subject. The result is an intimate heart and thought-provoking documentary about coming out in India.”
— Amber Dawn, Director of Programming
Vancouver Queer Film Festival

“Using her own life and regret for not revealing that she was a lesbian before mother died as a starting point, Sonali Gulati's I Am explores an India wrestling with deeply held traditions, mores and vestiges of a centuries old legal system that devalues and dehumanizes. Beautifully shot and multilayered, Gulati has crafted a sublimely touching and powerful film that reaffirms that while society and laws may change, the concept of family is still society's core value and greatest source of strength.”
—Charles Judson, Atlanta Film Festival

"What can one say about a film as layered, nuanced, and complex as this in a sentence or two? Our lives--as desi queers--are about silences; and this film has the courage to go where the silences are. And in doing so, the filmmaker captures the contradictory woof and warp, the paradoxical textures of acceptance, denial, rejection, and understanding that is so many of our lived experiences. It is a wonderfully teachable film: it is not only about desi queers and parents, but about longing & belonging, woundedness & healing, and the search for (our)selves."
— Sivagami Subbaraman, Director
LGBTQ Resource Center, Georgetown University

I Am is brilliant. It's sad, funny, tragic, elegiac, historic and above all triumphant. It is a personal story and a story about an entire continent.”
— Sam Kauffmann, Professor of Film & Television, Boston University

"Every year there is that one film that sticks with you, that one film that makes you remember why you love programming a film festival. This year, I Am was that film for me. From the opening narration of this beautiful documentary, I knew I was watching something wholly original and entirely special. I Am is one of the most emotional, personal and impactful documentaries of the year, or any year for that matter."
— Billy Ray Brewton, Programmer, SHOUT Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Birmingham, AL

“Sonali Gulati's phenomenal I Am documents universal yet culturally specific stories of Indian gays, lesbians, and transpeople who come out of the closet and some of the loved ones who stand with them. Rather than an outsider looking in, Gulati integrates part of her own biographical narrative with the narratives of the featured families. Her cinematic lens captures the vulnerability and bravery of these courageous individuals who, in spite of various forms of retaliation and persecution, refuse to conform to heterosexist and homophobic societal norms. I Am is a powerful praise song for the Queer Visibility movement in India. It is a most important film that should be seen far and wide.”
— Aishah Shahidah Simmons, Producer/Writer/Director
NO! The Rape Documentary