Pratibha Parmar: Interview

It seems like there's clearly a market for gay films, but it's still not...

I think some of the mainstream critics have been really quite venomous about the film. You've seen the film. What is there to be venomous about? It's a sweet film. It's sentimental. It's got a warm heart to it. Yes, it's got its raw edges, but it's my debut feature for God's sake. I'm not Steven Spielberg working on my 25th movie, so don't judge me on those terms.

But when you break it down, and look at who these critics are, they are what I call middle-aged -- on the whole, not all, of course there's exceptions. But on the whole, in the mainstream press, they are middle-aged pale male heterosexuals. And they are not in my film. There is not only single pale male heterosexual in the film. And they see themselves all the time and, suddenly, they come across a film and they are absent and they think, 'Yeah, well, we're not in there,' so they go for the jugular. It's too easy to criticize a film like this.

It's not like you're tackling a hate crime or anything... straining the food metaphors some more, in my review, I called it comfort food.

Yeah.

And I don't know what's wrong with being comfort food.

Exactly, and also, if it had been a film about a lesbian who wants to slash her wrists because she's feeling all this angst about being a lesbian, they probably would have loved it. But because it's two sexy, gorgeous girls getting it on, and it's a fucking, if I dare to use this word, it's a completely normalizing same-sex relationship. It's just like, 'OK, she happens to fall in love with a girl.'

It was interesting because it seemed the people who seemed to have the biggest problem with the gay angle were the gay characters. Everyone else was like, 'Oh, OK...'It was far more of an internal struggle than a societal problem, which is usually the case.

Exactly, exactly.

And the movie's getting a platform release?

It's platform, city by city. It's a slow rollout in different cities, so it's not simultaneous. So, it was in L.A. first, then New York, now San Francisco, then it's going to Portland, and then we'll see.

And at this point do you know when the DVD will come out?

Yeah, around February. We'd like to get it out for Valentine's Day, because it would be a great Valentine's present.

What was your own coming out like? Was there any reflection of it in the movie?

Yeah, very much actually. You know, the whole sort of push and pull thing about feeling pulled by your family and tradition and what's expected of you on the one hand, and wanting to follow your own desire on the other hand. And the two things being completely in contradiction.

My parents are wonderful in so many ways, but they wanted to do what they knew to be the right thing. And for them, the right thing was that I should have an arranged marriage, even though I would meet the man, and be able to say yes or no, and there wouldn't be any question of forcing me, but that's what would like me to have done.

And that's what they did try and get me to do, and I said no. And at that point, I didn't know what I wanted, but I knew that wasn't what I wanted. I just knew in my heart that's not what I wanted. And then I was at university and I came out to myself first, and for years I kept my sexuality hidden from my family. I didn't tell them. I was worried about telling them. I was scared to tell them, because I felt that if I told them they would reject me, and I didn't want that pain of losing my family. They're important to me.

And that's exactly the journey that Nina's going through in the film. She thinks her mom would never be able to accept it, so she just keeps it a secret. And she had run away from an arranged marriage they tried to do for her. So there are all kinds of similarities like that, parallels to my own story.