Pomona College Professor of Theatre Betty Bernhard's documentary Out! Loud!, a film about the lives of contemporary Indian lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and transsexual young people and representations of LGBT in sacred Indian texts, will be screened Wednesday, Sept. 4 at 7 p.m. at the Claremont School of Theology Mudd Theater (1325 N. College Ave., Claremont). The film, which has been enthusiastically received at Indian film festivals, will be followed by a panel discussion with Professors Nita Kumar from Claremont McKenna College and Duane Bidwell from Claremont School of Theology. Kumar is an expert on theatre for social change and has a theatre institute for disadvantaged children in Varanasi, India. A Presbyterian minister, Bidwell teaches, writes and researches sexuality and gender studies issues.
Out! Loud!, produced and directed by Bernhard in India, addresses the situation of young LGBT men and women in India where Penal Code #377—a holdover from the British Raj period—judges homosexuality to be a crime punishable by up to 10 years of imprisonment. In the film, personal interviews and theatre techniques used in theatre for social change draw parallels between the real lives of actors in a play "He, She, It!" based on their personal stories, and ancient Indian spiritual literature, such as the Puranas and the Mahabharata. The participants discuss their stories of sexual discovery, community responses to their sexuality and their struggle for self-acceptance. One individual elects castration, one becomes a sex worker, some are kidnapped and raped, and others are punished by their parents and subjected to shock treatments to "cure" homosexuality. Their stories are interspersed with clips from play rehearsals and the final production.
Bernhard says her aim is to show that LGBT is not an imported Western idea, but has always been present in India. She hopes this film "will engender discussion and political movement to get [the penal code] struck down."
Bernhard has researched political theatre, taught as a Fulbright Fellow and made documentaries in India since 1990. Currently, Bernhard teaches courses in theatre for social change and acting. She has produced more than 60 productions at Pomona College and in India, including two fully produced Sanskrit plays in English.
Read about Indian press reception to the film here.