Black Sheep is a 70-minute feature length documentary following a group of Hijras and the crew as they create new bonds of friendship while they proactively, through empowering events, break the barriers of popular myth and prejudice. The cinematic journey will move beyond the gritty slums of Mumbai to celebrate the real-life joys and multi-faceted personalities of this unique community of trans genders in India. From empathetic glimpses into their everyday lives, the narrative will encapsulate a series of adventures ranging from photo-shoots to fashion and talent shows, to celebrate the glorious femininity of the Hijra protagonists. Empowering adventures will include a DIY makeover for their currently grim workplace to bridging the emotional space between society, the families and the Hijras.
The film will shine a light on these inspiring Hijras who have demonstrated the courage to go up against society’s strictures to fulfill their true destiny.
“Black Sheep” will underscore the importance of freedom and living true to one’s identity and confront the negative portrayal of this hitherto marginalized section of Indian society. The objective is not to sermonize or castigate. Black sheep will be a beautiful, poignant documentary that honors and celebrates the freedom to live true to one’s destiny.
The friends you have, the education you pursue, the job you undertake, the love you celebrate…are everyday choices that do not make headlines. In a tradition-bound society, however, the ordinary everyday choices can be monumental, life-changing experiences.
India. Seen by some as a third world country to never visit is for others, a promise of a lifestyle that can spell freedom and peace.
This ancient country of one billion people, hailed as an emerging economic superpower, grapples with a rigid societal structure – a throwback to the 1950’s and 1960’s era in Western Europe.
In a society that has barely accepted heterosexual romance outside the confines of an arranged marriage, falling in love with the same sex is seen as a disease rather than a desire like any other. A male homosexual’s desire to dress and live like a woman is condemned as being sinful, making that person an outcast – stigmatized for the rest of his life.
The few individuals that have the courage to fulfill their biological and psychological needs experience both – the happiness of belonging and the pain of rejection.
Becoming a Hijra (Hindi/Urdu term for trans gender or transsexual) in India means a complete break from a normal life one would take for granted. Family, friends and even a run-of-the-mill job become a distant memory.
Despite the courage Hijras demonstrate to undergo this radical change, they are condemned by limited choices, to become sex workers or beggars, to feed themselves.
Most articles, documentaries and books studying Hijras typically highlight harsh choices they must make to feed themselves and to get by in society. The approach is judgmental – a severe indictment of society and its norms while inadvertently pitying the plight of the Hijra.
The positivity of living true to one’s destiny is lost in translation.
“Black Sheep” the documentary will take you beyond the gritty slums of Mumbai to unravel the beauty, joys and talent of the Hijras. This is a 30-day journey of self-discovery as much for Reshel Shah, the director and narrator and her crew, as it will be for the Hijras.
In a uniquely collaborative effort, the “Black Sheep” team will connect with the everyday lives of Manisha, Sneha, Kaif, Mariah, Dolly and other Hijras while celebrating their femininity and many talents on the big stage. There will be emotional reunions, DIY projects, theatre, fashion shows, job hunting and plain simple cooking.
“Black Sheep” is an intimate glimpse beyond labels and popular myths. The Hijra protagonists have narrated to the crew, incidents and events that gave them freedom, inspiration and happiness. While bringing these stories of positivity to the fore, “Black Sheep” will help create new stories of joy and achievement for them to share with the world.
Far removed from the stereotypical views of Hijras in popular media, Reshel will enter their homes, their sanctuary. Some have husbands; join the Hijras as they cook for their husbands. Some of them share their husbands; be privy to emotions rarely glimpsed in public. “Black Sheep” will offer an extraordinary insight to our shared emotions regardless of gender labels.
The documentary will address the real issues of a lack of job opportunities as it helps Kaif, the fashionista, collaborate with a stylist and possibly get work in the industry.
While some fortunate Hijras have reconciled with their parents, many remain estranged. “Black Sheep” takes up this sadly common issue by focusing on the individual. Mariah has not met her mother in seven years – the crew will travel the mere 20 kilometers with Mariah to the suburb of Ghatkopar in Mumbai to help the mother and daughter reconcile.
Our Hijras know what it really means to break free albeit with painful consequences. The unique cinematic language of “Black Sheep” will show, not sermonize. The articulate Hijras will give a talk in a school, about fulfilling one’s destiny, and not living in lies or fear. They will become counselors and empower future generations.
“Black Sheep” is also about the colour and flamboyance that our Hijras flaunt with panache.
Our protagonists, the Hijras, live, breath and work in this one office where they feel they can be themselves. Why is the office so dark and dingy? Why is there no colour? Or a polished desk and vibrant beanbags? Join the “Black Sheep” crew and the Hijras in this uniquely empowering DIY project to make this dark, dingy room a welcoming haven.
From a theatre workshop and a fashion show to a photo-shoot, the “Black Sheep” team will explore and showcase their talents. With professional hair, makeup and props, the fashion photographer will help them express their inner selves. Manisha as the veritable CEO, Sneha the angel with wings… a photo-shoot with soul.
“Black Sheep” holds the possibilities of creating new memories, diminishing the pain and creating new friends for the Hijras, beyond their closed community and NGOs. And for once they will invite us into their worlds, rather then them being invited to our world.
Black Sheep is a tempestuous 30-day journey of discovery. As the journey unfolds, the goal is to learn not to stereotype. While celebrating femininity, Hijras will emerge not as oddities or as the underdog, but as individuals with personality, charisma and depth. New bridges of understanding will be created between the crew and the Hijras.
Join Reshel and the “Black Sheep” crew on this joyous journey as the Hijras invite them into their world and their lives as equals.