Gay film-maker, Onir, won Best Hindi Feature Film for I Am at yesterday’s National Film Awards, India’s most prestigious film awards ceremony. The film was part crowd-funded after the producers failed to get big industry backing.
On Twitter, Onir said: ‘Still overwhelmed that I AM won the Best Hindi Feature film… It’s been a long and difficult journey. Thanks to all those 400 people who believed and supported our dream.’
The film-maker was referring to the 400 people who contributed funding to the film via Facebook, all earning a co-producer credit. They raised nearly RS10 million (Indian Rupees, $198,866, €150,950) to finance the film when established studios failed to support it.
Onir told Indo-Asian News Service: ‘This award has given me a lot of strength. This was the most difficult film to make as studios were not ready to acquire the film. This is a film made by people and this award is for those people who helped in the film.’
The director also said that there were time when he couldn’t get I Am screened for more than two weeks in cinemas across the country. ‘To get the Best Hindi Film Award while there must have been so many big movies in competition is a huge achievement for any independent film maker,’ he said.
The award is a stamp of approval for an openly gay director and a film dealing with gay issues from India's film industry establishment. The panel who decide who gets the awards are appointed by the government.
At Flashpoint Human Rights Film Festival in Mumbai last December, Onir said that after coming back to India after traveling abroad he felt he had to 'constantly pretend that that identity of yours [being gay] does not exist'. After that he decided to write on all his social media profiles ‘I AM GAY and refuse to be INVISIBLE’. ‘My films are about giving space, giving voice to all those [invisible] people,' he said.
Onir's debut feature film My Brother… Nikhil (2005) is based on the the true story of swimming champion Dominic D'Souza, a victim of the Goan government's enforced isolation of HIV patients in the 1980s.
I Am tells four separate stories, one about child abuse, one about gay rights, one about Kashmir and one about sperm donation, all controversial topics in India today. Onir said his favorite review of the film said ‘I Am not only breaks your heart, it opens your heart.’
Watch the offical trailer here: