19 March 2021: British Council brings the seventh edition of Five Films For Freedom, the world’s largest LGBTIQ+ digital campaign. Audiences everywhere are invited to watch the five films online in solidarity with LGBTIQ+ communities in places where freedom and equal rights are limited, and to spread the word using the hashtag #FiveFilmsForFreedom.Self-expression, homophobia in rural communities, coming out as a teenager and finding love later in life – this year’s short films look at an intersection of LGBTIQ+ perspectives to explore love and acceptance.

Broadcasting five brand new LGBTIQ+ films to countries around the world, this year’s programme showcases queer storytelling from India, Spain, Sweden, USA and the UK. The festival’s short film selection includes an Indian film this time. Titled,Bodies of Desire, and directed by Varsha Panikar and Saad Nawab, the movie uses Panikar’s work as the basis for a visual, poetic film capturing four sets of lovers in a sensual celebration of genderless love and desire.

Over 15 million people from more than 200 countries have viewed the Five Films For Freedom programme since its launch in 2015. This continues to include online engagement in countries where homosexuality can be prosecuted and, in some cases, punishable by death. Especially for Indian audiences, the Five Films will also be streamed on Jio Cinema, one of India’s leading video-on-demand streaming services. This year, the campaign further addresses the language barrier typically associated with international content, by providing subtitles in local languages such as Hindi.

In India, British Council has partnered with The Queer Muslim Project, South Asia’s largest virtual network of queer, Muslim and allied individuals, to celebrate and amplify LGBTIQ+ stories, voices and people. This year’s programme will also feature a community video from one of India’s largest youth multimedia platforms, Yuvaa and a podcast on the Five Films For Freedom by Bi Collective Delhi.

In addition, a series of COVID-sensitive community film screenings and curated online or offline engagements will be hosted by 10 LGBTIQ+and allied communities, collectives and organisations across India. Varsha Panikar, Director (Bodies of Desire) will be part of several community engagements.

The 2021 programme plan also includes an Online Digital Storytelling Workshop for young LGBTIQ+ artists and creators based in India and Nepal. The 2-day online Digital Storytelling workshop is designed to equip participants with the skills needed to tell their stories in a digital format. The workshop will explore a range of themes from online security and safety to creating shared community spaces, and learning the basic elements of a script, writing practice, and narration. Participants will be provided with technical support so that they are able to produce their own digital story (in the form of a 3-minute long film) either during or after the workshop.

At the launch, Jonathan Kennedy, Director Arts India, British Council, said, “The Five Films For Freedom campaign continues to gather a wider audience and deeper engagement with people across the world. We are glad that we have partners with whom we share our purpose of achieving greater inclusion and solidarity for the LGBTIQ+ community. We are excited about an Indian film being part of the lineup this year as it will take the perspective of the Indian LGBTIQ+ individuals to global audiences and connect them with people across borders.The range of emotions across this year’s lineup underlines the need for more love and togetherness in the world.”


Rafiul Alom Rahman, Founder & Director of The Queer Muslim Project adds, “The Five Films For Freedom programme of the British Council has been a catalyst in promoting nuanced and intersectional representations of LGBTIQ+ stories and people from diverse cultures around the world. We are truly honoured to be collaborating with the British Council to create a space that celebrates community, creativity, self-expression and love. We have put a lot of thought into the curation for this year, and have an exciting range of community screenings and creative engagements planned across India, which we hope will encourage discussions among all audiences, and open possibilities for more explorations of queer issues and experiences in the world of cinema and art.”