The sensuality of the Indian Mythical dance at GFEST 2014

Helton Vilar

Dancer Justin McCarthy was born in Michigan, USA, but it is in India where he found a home when it comes to his art. He masters the Bharatanatyam, an ancient Indian style that basically mixes myth and spirituality, but also explores notions of sensuality, adorned by the legendary Carnatic music. According to McCarthy, it provides a “glimpse into cultural and sexual mores prevalent in South India for many centuries”. Below the artist explains us a bit more about this beautiful choreography, describing the special piece that will be a world premeire during the GFEST – Gaywise FESTival 2014 on 20 November.

Mohini by Justin McCarthy, image by Briana Blasko
Mohini by Justin McCarthy, image by Briana Blasko

“Mohini, the Enchantress is a solo piece in Bharatanatyam. It illustrates three mythological incidents in which the god Vishnu transforms himself into an enchanting woman, Mohini. In the first instance, he does so to trick and kill a demon, in the second to trick a host of demons and thereby aid a host of gods, and in the third to please the god Shiva. Apart from the usual Bharatanatyam music, i.e., Carnatic voice, flute and mridangam (drum), another duo of musicians is used, a nadasvaram (a reed instrument) player and a thavil (a drum) player. Visually, the piece is enhanced with images and masks created by a Kalamkari (a painting-on-cloth style of southern Andhra Pradesh) artist.

The choreography deals with the male gaze in various forms and the return gaze of the male-now-become-female Vishnu/Mohini. The ambiguities of the rapports thus created are explored by means of a series of racy erotic songs called javalis written in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for ‘dancing girls’ in South India. The myths connected with Vishnu/Mohini have always fascinated me because of their sexual ambiguity. The protagonists, both Mohini and the hosts of divine and demonic males, all hover somewhere between archetypes and stereotypes. The tensions and unabashed commerce set up between them also offer intriguing entry points into the stories”.

The spectacle will count with the following cast:

Dancer and choreographer- Justin McCarthy
Vocalist- Sudha Raghuraman
Flutist- G. Raghuraman
Mridangist- MV Chandrasekhar
Nadaswaram- Raja
Thavil- Viramani

Kalamkari images- P. Ramachandraiah
Lighting- Deepa Dharmadhikari
The Mythical Dance is part of the GFEST – Gaywise FESTival 2014 . It happens on Thursday the 20 November at RADA Studio, 6 Chenies Street, London, WC1E 7EX:  box office: +44 (0)20 7307 5060 Booking email:

A short film with a deep drama at GFEST 2014

Helton Vilar

In 12 minutes, The Last Farewell (2013) features a delicate story of a gay man who decides to review his own life, reflecting about his successes and failures, unveiling a path to comprehension and forgiveness. In this quick interview, Swedish director Casper Andreas tells us more in detail about this award-winner production.



How do you describe “The Last Farewell”?

The short answer is that it’s an alternative family drama about life and death! Sounds dramatic and it is in a way, but it’s also a sweet love story dealing with acceptance and forgiveness.

We see “new” topics related to LGBT people, not usually explored in cinema, such as maturity, death…

There are a few films out there about LGBT characters dealing with those things. It certainly was something new for me to explore though (I’m mostly known for my romantic comedies) but its been amazing to see how audiences of all ages are able to relate to the characters and what they are going through.

How was filming it?

Like always the challenges when filming an independent film was time and money. We had an amazing two-day shoot though. My actors were just wonderful and the film team was so supportive making sure we got everything we needed finished in those two days.

Would you like to highlight any part in specific?

Well there is a moment in the second part of the film when the main character does a quick turn that I’m super happy with. I think that sequence is very powerful and I hope everyone is paying attention at that moment. But it’s a 12 min film so hopefully they will be paying attention throughout.

The screening happens as part of GFEST – Gaywise FESTival 2014 film screening programme on Monday, 17/11 at 12 pm at Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6LA


GFEST 2014 Films list and dates

GFEST – Gaywise FESTival 2014 Sensational films line-up. Enjoy the diverse films on big screen.


Check for more and please help spread the word.

GFEST 2014 Films at Rich Mix, 15 to 18 November 2014

35 – 47 Bethnal Green Road, London, E1 6LA

Sat 15 Nov / 12 noon / To Russia with love (short) + STAND feature drama: Booking info

Sun 16 Nov / 12 noon / Brace (short) + Fagbug Nation, feature documentary : Booking info

Mon 17 Nov / 6 pm / A Last Farewell (short) + The Way He Looks, feature drama : Booking info

Tues 18 Nov / 8.15 pm / June (short) + Secret Path, feature drama : Booking info

Box Office : 020 7613 7498 / /  concs and incl. promotional prices

Where are the gays in history?

Helton Vilar

That’s a good question, which Director Richard Mansfield tries to respond. He tells us about The Secret Path, a drama set in the 1810s, telling the story of two British gay marines who flew persecution to embark into a journey of suspense and horror. Mansfield gives us a brief introduction on his film and also approaches the lack of productions telling stories of how gays have overcome different moments of history.

The Secret Path 78
Director Richard Mansfield’s The Secret Path will be London Premiere at GFEST 2014 films

“The Secret Path is a period drama, romance and horror film about Frank and Theo; two sailors in love escaping the British Navy in 1810 and falling prey to a supernatural force. I think we’re starting to see more period LGBT films with films like ‘Pride’ and ‘The Imitation game’ and they’re being made for a mainstream audience, which is very encouraging.

I’d love to see more LGBT period dramas focusing on LGBT characters throughout the ages and spanning different genres like horror. We were very lucky with the production, we filmed guerrilla on location. You never know what you may come across when out in the elements but the rain held off and we had the place to ourselves most of the time. It was pretty cold though and there were a lot of planes going overhead meaning I had to re-record the dialogue in post-production.

The audience should pay particular attention to the relationship between the two men, it’s very sweet authentic and romantic. I was thrilled the way they brought the characters of Frank and Theo to life. I made ‘The Secret Path’ for a gay audience but I hope it has crossover qualities”.

The Secret Path screening happens at GFEST – Gaywise FESTival on Tuesday, 18/11 at 8.15 pm at Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6LA

@GFEST – Gaywise FESTival 2014 Brochure

GFEST – Gaywise FESTival from 10 to 22 November venues : films & cabaret at Rich Mix (15 to 18 Nov), Dance at RADA Studio (20 Nov), Art exhibition at Menier Gallery (10 to 22 Nov), Bar Titania (a new event: Authors book reading ‘L is for..’ free entry – turn up on 13 Nov at 6 pm ) & debate at Roehampton University (19 Nov)

Download : GFEST2014Ebrochure  & See full event list (10 to 22 Nov)

The male body, more than a gay obsession at GFEST 2014

Helton Vilar

Three London artists who will show their work at GFEST – Gaywise FESTival this year, offer their opinions on why the male nude figure is so present in art today, claiming other meanings beyond stereotype.

The male body inspires multiple art works and this is no news. It has historically received many portraits at painting, photography, and other supports. Some might even argue about a certain contemporary obsession, especially from gay artists. Recent works from three London artists are examples that this continuous search does not necessarily follow a sexual nature; instead, artists are looking for new ways to explore it, depict it, and absorb it through art. Their compositions are not entirely dedicated to the male nude figure, which is only seen in some moments, but this part is interesting to confront how new readings exist beyond cliché.

_D3_9440  Gokhan Tanriover was born in Turkey, grew up in the UK, and quit his career as a doctor to dedicate himself to photography. His pieces are created in well-elaborated techniques of production and printing, such as liquid light and cyanotype. These images mix abstract, religious, and queer culture elements. Tanriover says that he is “fascinated by the motion and distortion that water causes on subjects behind the lens”, which gives, in fact, an often disturbing, but beautifully constructed appearance to his pictures. The male gaze is not only non-conventional, but a second layer of his focus.


+MS 2Working with more figurative and accessible views, Matthew Stradling looks for the classical and undeniable sensuality of the male nude. His paintings have lively, full-contrast colours, depicting bodies in raw, organic, explicit behaviours. “The paintings often seduce the viewer with a dream-like flow of imagery, a careful attention to detail and an intense use of colours”, he asserts. Stradling is pretty honest on the reasons of portraying the male: “As a gay man I can only express myself through a gay man’s eyes”, but which connects with “people of all sexualities”.

+JoaoTrinidadeGiving a more geometrical, anatomical angle, Portuguese artist João Trindade dedicates himself to the male figure, but connecting it more with the space, particularly the contemporary cities space. Trindade acknowledges this collective passion: “The contemporary perception of the male human form is a fascination for me, I see it as a natural wonder”. But rather than the easy interpretation of this, we find an enthralling and laborious exercise of displaying the flesh in a sort of dramatic drawing, moving away from an obvious sexy take.

These three artists are reluctant to accept the label of gay or queer to their work, rather situating it into a broader context, one of human relations. “I hope to show my reflections and states of soul as a whole, as a human, as a sexual being” is the conception of Trindade in favour of a more open conception, which is somehow reflected at Tanriover words as well: “I am just a photographer that happens to be gay and my sexuality does not affect my images at conscious level but naturally it may feed itself into my work”. Both connect with Straddling, who speaks of “liberation of the LGBT audience”. In fact, there is a need for a less stereotyped perception of the male nude, and of those artists who produce it in all possible nuances. Notwithstanding the public opinion, it’s a common sense that the male image (nude or not) will remain as a recurrent paradigm for art in the near future, what is possibly missing is more people to admit it.

The artists will be exhibiting the works at Urban Myths, part of GFEST – Gaywise FESTival 2014, which will feature many other artists. It happens from 10 to 22 November 2014, 11 am to 6 pm (Sunday closed) – Location: Menier Gallery, 51 Southwark Street London SE1 1RU Cost: FREE/ check for further information


STAND – Film shot in Ukraine portrays a homophobic Russia

Helton Vilar

Based on real events, Stand (2013) tells the story of a couple in search of evidences to unravel a homophobic crime in Russia. This production is directed by French Jonathan Taieb, and starred by Renat Shuteev (Anton) and Andrey Kurganov (Vlad). In an interview, Taieb has spoken about the challenges of making a movie about gays, particularly filming it in Ukraine; a country then emerged into a political crisis. The director agrees about the lack of feature films approaching the situation of gay rights in Russia, mostly seen only in documentaries. Here we have, according to his words, “a drama, thriller and cinema verité, a debate about love and hate, between the epic and the intimate”.

Helton Vilar: To which extent the narrative is connected with the current situation of LGBT rights in Russia?

Jonathan Taieb: The film is partly inspired by true events. Some neo-Nazis groups hunt the Homosexuals in Eastern Europe due, in part, to the new law, which forbids any “sexual-propaganda”. Some videos of these humiliations and violent moments are still online and have been seen by over 500,000 users. There are a lot of Antons, the main characters of the film, all over the world, fighting for Human Rights.

HV: Did you face any challenge when filming “Stand”?

JT: It was really tough to shot the film, in Ukraine, during the crisis. As a French-European, we have to face with the wave of anti-European sentiment. We were really lucky to find some people who really help us on site. And in Kharkov, the city where we shoot and the second largest Ukraine city, just 50 km from Russia, a homophobic group attacked a gay man just few days before we arrived to shoot.

A still from movie Stand
A Still from movie Stand

stand_4wHV: Is there any specific part to which the audience should pay more attention?

JT: I think Stand is (just) a film and the reality is worse. The audience and media may have to stay tuned in with Human Rights topics, and not just during big international meetings like Olympic games. It’s not sporadically that people are deprived of their rights and we have to get the power, thanks to social media and Internet, or culture, arts and films, to change things.

Stand is a part of the GFEST – Gaywise FESTival 2014, and it will be screened on Saturday, 15/11 at 12 noon at Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London, E1 6LA – A Q&A session with actor Andrey Kurganov will happen just after the session.