CPH:DOX – In-Between Days (2012)

In-Between Days was the unexpected gem of this year’s CPH:DOX. The debut feature(ish) length documentary from Indian based filmmaker Sankha, it portrays a clandestine subculture on the streets of Kolkata – the transgendered community and their illegal sex trafficking. At least, that’s what In-Between Days looks like from a distance. Beneath that taboo is a universally affecting tale of reckless adolescence and friendship.

Filmed over 14 months, in the wake of India decriminalising homosexual sex in 2009, Sankha focuses his observational lens on best friends Chiranjit and Bubai. Both born as males, they now have embraced their inner feminity and consider themselves as transgendered. Dropping out of school, and with Bubai thrown out of his family home, the pair are ostracised from society, they spread the word on HIV awareness by day, and have no other choice but have to push the city streets at night; prostituting themselves to well-paying customers. No direction, no choices and no path, Chiranjit yearns to become an important business person, whilst Bubai seeks the tender love of a loving man. As weeks turn into months, the pair’s kindred spirits are freed and they start to look elsewhere for companionship.

Filmed on digital, with a shoestring budget and rickety editing technique, Sankha manages to paint an impressively expansive picture on the hardships facing these socially outcasted Indian youths. Enlightening, funny, and plaintive, it’s an enjoyable and significant movie. In one of the most candid moments, Bubai addresses Sankha directly in the movie, asking whether this film will make him famous and happy. Although that aspiration is unlikely, spreading the word about this documentary will hopefully make these unsung heroes’ horror stories heard, and help continue to change the ugly state of gender discrimination.