Vancouver Queer Film Fest: In-between Days offers an authentic look at India's trans community
A documentary by Sankhajit Biswas. In Bengali with English subtitles.
The metropolis of Kolkota has a well-deserved reputation as one of India's most liberal cities.
That was on display at last year's Sex Workers' Freedom Festival when thousands demonstrated in the West Bengal capital.
On a more micro level, the Bengali live-and-let-live attitude also permeates In-Between Days (Dui Dhuranir Golpo), a compelling and sensitive documentary focusing on two teenage trans friends who land jobs at an NGO doing HIV prevention outreach.
Bubai is the more mercurial of the two, worrying about school-exam results and becoming despondent after a boyfriend dumps her for a "girl".
Chiranjit comes across as more mature, which might explain why she is promoted to supervisor.
Both are engaged in the sex trade, though Chiranjit makes it clear that this is not how she wants to spend the rest of her life.
Shot over 14 months, director Sankhajit Biswas gains his subjects' trust and shows how attitudes are changing in modern, urban India.
This is not the "poverty porn" that's on display in so many documentaries shot in India by foreign directors. Nor are these sex workers presented as hapless victims of nasty and exploitive johns.
Instead, viewers are treated to a sympathetic, nuanced portrait of the young trans community and many of its challenges—notably, the discrimination endured within families, the risks taken to earn a living, and the difficulty in finding romance.
In-between Days smacks of authenticity, whether it's in the relatively friendly attitudes of other Indians to the trans protaganists or in the ever-present Indian spirituality that crops up from time to time.
The opening scene reflects the film's title. Bubai, Chiranjit, and two friends are seen taking a daytime walk in the park, looking like femine teenage boys, before suddenly emerging as glamourous women on the night-time streets of the city.
The duo's friendship unexpectedly takes a rocky turn, injecting some dramatic tension. Like many relationships, this isn't without its problems.
The sheer normality of that—as well as in the respectful portrayal of the young trans community in Kolkata—suggest that Biwas isn't out to sensationalize his subjects. He just wants to reflect the truth.
In so doing, he shows a side of India that is too often kept hidden from western movie audiences.
In-Between Days (Dui Dhuranir Golpo) screens at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival at Cineplex Odeon International Village Cinemas on Sunday (August 18) at 9 p.m.
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