In a move that challenges artistic freedom in the country, the Ministry Of Information And Broadcasting barred the Kerala Chalachithra Academy from screening three documentary films at the 10th edition of International Documentary And Short Film Festival Of Kerala, 2016. The films are The Unbearable Being Of Lightness, March March March and In the Shade Of Fallen Chinar.
The Unbearable Being Of Lightness, directed by Ramachandra PN, documents the student protests and related events at the University Of Hyderabad, shortly after Rohit Vemula, the PhD scholar, committed suicide in the University in January 2016. March March March, directed Kathu Lukose is about the student protests at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University. In The Shade Of Fallen Chinar, directed by Fazil Nc and Shawn Sebastian, is about the political and military turmoil in Kashmir.
In a press meet held in Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday, June 10, Academy chairperson Kamal said that the academy will file an appeal against the Ministry’s decision. However, Kamal added that the appeal might not be fruitful as there aren’t many days left before the festival which begins on June 16 in Thiruvananthapuram. “This is a scathing attack on the artistic freedom of filmmakers in the country,” lamented Kamal.
“I received an email from the Chalachitra Academy yesterday, informing that these three films will not be screened at the festival,” said Kathu Lukose. “Usually, the festival committee sends uncensored festival films to the Ministry to obtain an censor exemption. If you look at the themes of the only three films denied an exemption, there is a clear pattern,” said Kathu. She filmed the documentary during the student protests that were held at JNU in early 2016. IDSFFK was supposed to be the first screening venue of the film.
It was in 2006 that the central government formulated the policy of censor exemption that does not require movies to be cleared by the Censor Board prior to being screened film at festivals. However, in several instances, the ministry has denied censor exemption to films, often without citing any reason. In December 2016, the 21st International Film Festival of Kerala could not screen Iranian director Majid Majidi’s Mohammed, as the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting denied it censor exemption.