JNU, Rohith Vemula, Kashmir: Kerala film festival bans three documentaries with 'uneasy' subjects

Makers of In the Shade of Fallen Chinar, a documentary that portrays conflict-torn Kashmir through the eyes of young artists, will approach Kerala court as the central government has banned its screening along with two other documentaries.

“The central government is failing to see the limits of its federal reach out,” Shawn Sebastin, co-director of the In the Shade of Fallen Chinar, told Firstpost.

“We are approaching the court. We will fight it out. And it has to be. Otherwise, such practices will be repeated,” Shawn added.

All the three documentaries denied screening at international documentary and short film festival in Kerala between June 16 and 20 discuss “uneasy themes” for the central government.

While Shawn’s 16-minute long documentary features hardships of Kashmiri youth, a 45-minute-long documentary directed by Ramchandra PN Unbearable Being of Lightness is shot in the backdrop of Hyderabad University research scholar Rohith Vemula's suicide and the third one is Kathu Lukose’s March March March on Jawaharlal Nehru University protests.

From L to R: Posters of In The Shade of Fallen Chinar, March March March and The Unbearable Being of Lightness..

“Directed along with my friend Faizal NC, the movie features how youngsters in Kashmir vent their anger through art. We have featured musicians and painters, mainly from Kashmir University. These youngsters were born into conflict and grew up seeing it worsening,” Shawn added.

The film, which is available on Youtube, was selected in the competition section for the fest and has been screened twice at different venues in the south India.

Shawn said that they are yet to ascertain specific factors that irked the ministry and have not received any official communication and condemned the practice of censorship tools creeping into the documentary film space in the country.

“If not rectified at its nascent stage, what lies ahead for documentary film makers are the watchful eyes of authorities and strangling by the government that curtail the freedom of expression central to the medium,” Shawn added.

On Sunday, while announcing central government’s decision to deny screening for the three documentaries, chairman of Kerala State Film Academy and filmmaker Kamal said it’s an evidence of depriving the freedom for creativity.

He said that it clearly shows there exists cultural emergency and we are going through undeclared emergency period.

Kamal also added that the academy will file an appeal against the Center's decision, though chances of the decision being revoked are less as the festival is scheduled to begin in a few days.

Kathu Lukose, maker of March March March, told Firstpost that she feels agitated in learning the central government’s decision.

“They have not seen my documentary. By just reading a synopsis, they have said no. I don’t know what to say…,” Kathu, who was a student at JNU when the protests were at its peak, said.

March March March chronicles the aftermath of the February 9, 2016, incident in which some students of the JNU were accused of raising ‘anti-national’ slogans.

The film narrates the series of agitations, arrests and protests that followed, leading up to the Student Union elections that were held in September last year.

It is the first independent work of Kathu, who graduated from JNU’s School of Arts and Aesthetics last year.

While Kathu did the direction and cinematography for the film, it was produced by her mother Mary Lal.

“I am going to approach court on Tuesday. I am touch with Fazil, the maker of Kashmir film. We will be going to court. Such moves are unacceptable,” Kathu added.

Kathu’s documentary has not been screened anywhere so far. This was her first independent film and the fest was her first platform to screen the same.

“I am thinking of uploading the movie on Youtube. Soon, I may do it,” Kathu added.

Meanwhile, Ramachandra PN, the maker of third documentary Unbearable Being of Lightness told Firstpost that the same was screened in Kolkata film fest organized by the state government in 2016 November.

“I am surprised what happened now. We have screened the film in Kolkata officially. Now, after seven months, it’s being denied permission,” Ramachandra said.

“It’s a political move. Just by reading a synopsis, they have said no. It is weird,” he added.

Following central government’s decision, Ramachandra has uploaded the documentary on his blog.

Meanwhile, Kerala’s cultural affairs minister A K Balan said that just because a documentary deals with current socio-political issues, it can't be branded anti-national.

Balan said the fascist way of silencing critics by threat had been prevailing in the country for quite some time.

"Why some people are scared when current social issues are portrayed in art forms? Artists always discuss topical issues. Recently, we also witnessed murders of free thinkers and those who dare to speak the truth. The short film ban is the latest in that episode," Balan posted on his Facebook page.

Recalling that Kerala has been successfully hosting the documentary and short film festival for the last 10 years, Balan said no other state was organising such a fair.

"Apart from Kerala festival, Indian documentaries have screening opportunities only in festivals organised abroad. Cultural leaders should protest against this," he added.

In the five-day-long 10th edition of documentary and short film fest around 260 short films and documentaries are expected to be screened.

Updated Date: Jun 15, 2017 08:31 AM

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