The Kerala High Court, on Wednesday afternoon, has cleared the screening of filmmaker Anand Patwardhan’s award-winning documentary film, Reason, at the ongoing International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFFK) in Thiruvananthapuram. The State Chalachitra Academy had approached the court after the Union Ministry Of Information and Broadcasting denied censor exception to the film, citing ‘law and order’ issues. Patwardhan joined the case as a second petitioner.
The court, in its order, observed that the apprehension that the documentary might affect law and order problem wasn’t a valid reason to withhold the sanction. Reason, a four hour and twenty minutes long documentary, talks about the murders of rationalists and attacks on activists critical of the ruling government, murders of Muslims and Dalits in the name of cow in recent years across the country, and the emergence and spread of hyper-nationalism. It had won the Best Feature Length Documentary award at the International Documentary Film Festival, Amsterdam (IDFA) in November 2018. The first two chapters of the film was released on YouTube in April this year. It was scheduled to be screened at IDSFFK on 24 June at 6 pm in competition category. However, the screening had to be postponed after the union ministry refused to provide it with a censor exemption which is a prerequisite for all films screened at the festival.
On Wednesday morning, 69-year-old Patwardhan wrote on Facebook, “Fight goes on! International Doc Fest of Kerala selected Reason in competition. It was to show today. Central govt denied permission to just this one film claiming it will cause “law and order” problems !!! Kerala festival to their immense credit is going to court. I am joining the case in Kochi court this morning. Wish us luck !” He was accompanied to the court by Shaji H, the festival’s Deputy Director.
In 2017, the Kerala Chalachitra Academy had approached the court in a similar fashion after the central ministry refused screening clearance to four documentaries, In the Shade of Fallen Chinar a film on Kashmir’s musicians, The Unbearable Being of Lightness a documentary on late Dalit PhD scholar Rohith Vemula, March-March-March, based on the JNU protests in 2017, and Mujahir. Last December, Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi’s Muhammad – The Messenger of God couldn’t be screened at International Film Festival Of Kerala, also organised by the Chalachitra Academy, after the intervention of the Union Ministry. Majidi was the chief guest at IFFK.