I Am: When being one’s self is enough – A film by Sonali Gulati
The journey home is always fraught with contradictions. The longing for the place you left and the realisation that your imagination was far from the reality; the joy of the familiar and remembrance; the realisation that possibly your home is now somewhere else and breaking away is as difficult as coming home. I Am is a journey home but one which is compounded by the loss of a mother and coming out.
I started making I Am in 2005. My personal experience of leading a closeted life and my inability to come out to my mother before she died, serves as not only the motivation, but also the starting point for the film. As I began to come out to some of my friends, I noticed that this was not as muted, or invisible, or shameful a subject as I had perceived it to be. I managed to connect with a community of people who were out to their parents, some of whom were even very accepting and understanding. As a departure from my own story, I Am became a portrait of various Indian families, living in India, dealing with having a gay or lesbian family member.
I knew that I wanted to focus on people living in India, because at the time, lawyers in favor of keeping Section 377 (the law that criminalized homosexuality in India) argued that homosexuality was a western import and that it was not part of Indian culture and history. What was ironic was that they were fighting to keep in place a British law that was exactly that.
I Am is an innovative film that takes more than simply creative risks. The experience of making this film has shown me the power in representing one’s self and one’s community from the inside, striking a balance between the need to inform and the need to maintain privacy.