By Timothy Rawles
The controversial new film Koko was recently screened at the Sunshine City Film Festival on January 18, 2021.
The movie was also the recipient of the Best Audience Choice Award, and that has people wondering not only about the Florida Film Commission but how the movie was funded in the first place.
The film has billed itself as a love story between a man and his dog, but its perceived homophobic subtext is causing quite a stir in the Sunshine State.
In a recent interview, Koko's director, Anjani Pandey, said the film was inspired by the marriage equality law, "I am not personally [a] supporter [of] the same-sex marriage law, and when I heard same-sex marriage [had] been declared as a legal act (through) via President Obama's speech on the news, I was not happy," he told The Movie Blog. "So I thought (that) when [a] man is legally allowed to [marry] another man when a woman is legally allowed to [be] married [to] another woman, then one day [in the future] someone can ask [to make it] legal to marry his/her dog, too, which is totally unnatural and unacceptable by anyone including me. We can’t even imagine that kind of society we will be living in."
Online publisher Anthony Pernicka who lives in Florida made a Facebook post about the screening of the film, calling out the homophobic subtext. "I'm sharing all this because we should be better than this. Especially in the City of St. Petersburg, Florida where I know the community, if they knew about this 'agenda,' would not support Anjani Pandey or this film."
Several people including Film Florida, a state-wide not-for-profit film production group quickly wanted distance from the story asking Pernicka to remove a tag in his post referencing their name.
John Lux, the Executive Director of Film Florida, told Echo, "Film Florida is not involved in casting, crewing, or producing any original content. Nor are we involved in any permitting. Film Florida is a statewide not-for-profit entertainment production trade association run by volunteer members of the industry."
However, The Sunshine City Film Festival stands by their choice to run the film. When we emailed them for comment they responded with their disclaimer:
“The Sunshine City Film Festival supports diversity and inclusion, and we do not take a position on any film selected. We leave that for the audience to decide on what they interpret the art to be. We are not in a position to judge personal beliefs or infringe on any constitutional rights by any means. Our responsibility is to provide a platform for storytelling that represents many diverse points of view.”
The problem with the movie stems from its plot. A man in the wake of marriage equality is unlucky in love with humans, and he bonds with his dog. This then inspires him to go to court and petition to marry his canine companion.
For the LGBTQ community who fought for equal rights, the story is a slap in the face because one of the details in the opposition's platform was that if marriage equality is made into law it would inspire perversions such as bestiality.
Pandey has defended his film saying he is not against same-sex marriage. Responding to Pernicka in the comments section, the director said, "For me, Koko is 'just another film' and in fact, Koko is not about anti-same-sex-marriage-law. In fact, Koko's story is about [how one] can find his/her true sole-mate in any form of [the] body — whether it's male, female, or animal or tree. Koko's story is about true love and [the] relationship between two souls."
We have reached out to Anjani Pandey for comment and are awaiting a reply.
This is a developing story and Echo will bring you more as it becomes available.