Yet Another Gag on the Right to Artistic Freedom and Expression
Centre Disallows Films on Kashmir, Rohith Vemula and JNU Protests to be Screened at the Short Film Festival in Kerala
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has refused censor exemption to three documentaries on the unrest in Kashmir, Rohith Vemula, and the 2016 JNU protests. In the Shade of Chinar, The Unbearable Being of Lightness, and March March March are the three films that have been denied screenings at the tenth edition of the International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala, which begins in Thiruvananthapuram today. This is yet another tired attempt by the Centre to control various aspects of our lives — what we eat; whom we love; what we watch or what we read.
Bina Paul, vice-chairperson of the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy, that has organised the festival, said that the government has always been scared of filmmakers; this is not the first time that a film has been banned. However, it is the first time that films are being censored in documentary film festivals. This discouraging move is not particular to governments, but the state, she said.
She called the move pointless, as filmmakers today also have other avenues available to showcase their work. Watch the films below.
Directed by N. C. Fazil and Shawn Sebastian, In the Shade of Fallen Chinar talks about the affirmative nature of art and culture, music and literature in conflict-ridden Kashmir. The film features young artists and students primarily from Kashmir University. It explores the meaning and value of art in times of conflict.
The students explain how their art is a place of refuge, but also a source of strength; it is an "escape" — as one of the artists put it — from the violence and oppression, but it is also a form of resistance. There is pain, anger, and urgency for artistic expression, and the shade of the fallen chinar provides much needed relief for the young artists. The immediacy of the film has only increased with the current refusal of censor exemption.
Watch the entire film here:
The institutional murder of Rohith Vemula, a young Dalit scholar, shook the entire nation last year. P. N. Ramachandra’s film The Unbearable Being of Lightness is about the ensuing protests and unrest in the University of Hyderabad. The film was shot in February 2016 when the filmmaker was conducting a workshop with the students of mass communication at the university.
The film traces Rohith’s caste identity, and the controversy that took center stage following his untimely death: was Rohith Vemula a Dalit? This question was raised to divert those who are implicated in Vemula’s suicide: the University of Hyderabad authorities, Union Minister Dattatreya, and the former HRD Minister Smrithi Irani. The film also throws light on the lifelong caste discrimination his mother has faced.
March, March, March, a documentary film directed by Kathu Lukose, is about the crackdown on voices of dissent in JNU last year. The documentary explores the many voices of resistance put up by the students and teachers in order to preserve the spaces for debate and discussion within universities.
Donate to the Indian Writers' Forum, a public trust that belongs to all of us.