“It was very pleasing to have been shortlisted into the Barnes Film Festival; those that run the festival created a platform for my voice.” Neha Khan-Dillon
I am a mixed race homosexual female filmmaker.
Born to a Pakistani mother and Punjabi father, whilst simultaneously immersed in Arabic lifestyle (due to us living in Dubai at the time), has formed the ethnically diverse views that culminate a part of my existence. An upbringing in this lifestyle has already placed obscene amounts of pressure on conforming to pre-conceived ideas of sexual ‘norms’. With marrying outside of race/ religion remaining a key issue in most Islamic families, attraction to the same gender is shameful.
So, being an openly gay Pakistani filmmaker is rare, to say the least.
Despite the progressive nature today’s society boasts, I would argue this is largely a facade. Whilst many do remain openly opposed to homosexuality, often those who state their ‘support’ feel incredibly uncomfortable watching gay love; many turn away or grimace at male sex scenes. Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name has been dubbed a ‘revolutionary’ piece of art. However, the film vastly ignores gay culture and also does not explicitly show gay sex.
Director Guadagnino stated in an interview that his intention was to make the audience “feel first love”, although this may be the case, ultimately he has ignored a fundamental part of homosexual love. I would argue that sexual intercourse is a key part of love (hence the term ‘lovemaking’) and his refusal to push at the predetermined boundaries of what is visually acceptable has effectively pushed the reality of homosexual relations back into the closet.
Conversely, lesbianism or screenplay showing action between two women is often glorified. This double standard is bemusing at first glance, until one realises that it is not lesbian love that is accepted. Once again the nature of homosexual relations are twisted to conform to stereotypically male desires.
The struggle of portraying sexuality is evidently still prominent today as straight audiences have not been exposed to homosexual relations as if on par with heterosexuals.
This issue is exceeding when isolated; however, when combined with the factor of being an ethnic minority, the struggle is heightened tenfold. An analysis of the top 100 movies in 2016 found that only 5.7% of speaking characters were Asian, whilst only a shocking 1.1% of characters were found to be members of the LGBTQ community. There have been no oscar nominated gay asian films, and a quick google search proves there are none that have received any form of recognition – other than some sketchy looking ones.
Whilst I do not consider myself to be defined by my ethnicity nor my sexuality, societal norms have undoubtedly played a significant part in my position in the filmmaking industry. With countries such as the USA and UK placing such importance on ‘freedom of expression’ it is bizarre to me that ethnic minorities within those countries face tremendous difficulty having their voice heard.
There have not been any openly lesbian films starring girls from a Pakistani or Arab culture and I’m incredibly aware that if I were to make one, I would face remarkable backlash.
It was very pleasing to have been shortlisted into the Barnes Film Festival; those that run the festival created a platform for my voice.
Whilst my film did not contain any blatant sexual references nor did I cast an ethnic minority as my main character, the progressive nature of the directors behind this festival is evident – shortlisting a film from a gay, female, Pakistani filmmaker.