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Govt Denies Permission to Screen Films on Rohith Vemula, JNU Protest and Kashmir Unrest

Calling this a state of cultural emergency, the chairman of the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy said there was no logical reason for the three movies to be denied exemption.

Eram Agha | News18.com@erampatrakar

Updated:June 11, 2017, 5:18 PM IST
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Govt Denies Permission to Screen Films on Rohith Vemula, JNU Protest and Kashmir Unrest
File photo of a protest at JNU.

New Delhi: The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has denied censor exemption certificates to three documentaries, which were based on recent national controversies, for screening at the International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala.

The three films with a socio-political theme that were denied certification by the ministry are ‘The Unbearable Being of Lightness,’ which is directed by Ramachandra PN and was based on the Rohith Vemula suicide; ‘In the shade of Fallen Chinar,’ which is directed by Fazil NC and is based on the unrest in Kashmir, and ‘March, March, March’, a film directed by Kathu Lukose based on the student agitation at JNU.

This is the first time that a film has been refused censor exemption by the central government for the film festival, which is organized by the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy for the Department of Cultural Affairs, under the government of Kerala. It will be the 20th edition of the festival this year.

Films that are shown at the festival do not need certification from the Censor Board, but require a censor exemption certificate from I&B Ministry. Only the three out of 200 films sent to the ministry were not cleared. News18 tried to contact officials for clarification but the calls were not answered.

Calling this a state of cultural emergency, the chairman of the academy, Kamal, said that there was no logical reason for the three movies to be denied exemption.

Speaking to News18, the academy’s vice-chairperson Bina Paul Venugopal said, “We are in our 20th edition and this is the first time that the ministry has denied a film censor exemption certificate. The films were not blindly chosen. We set up a committee that sees the films and recommends."

The academy has written to the ministry again and is hoping the films will be given permission. "I am told by the director of the film that is based on Vemula that it was screened at a documentary festival in Kolkata. I am surprised that it has been restricted in Kerala," Paul added.

Last year, Iranian director Majid Majidi’s film, ‘Muhammad - The messenger of God’ faced the same fate during the International Film Festival of Kerala, organized by the Academy. Sources at the ministry said that Majidi's film was a threat to law and order in Goa, the host city, which is why the film didn't get exemption.

The censor exemption is subject to fulfilment of the following conditions: “In exceptional cases, the Ministry of I&B will have the powers to reject, for reasons to be recorded in writing, the request for exemption to any film if, in its opinion, it would impinge on the security or integrity of the country or affect law and order or affect relations with other countries”.

In order to consider the request for exemption for a film to be screened at a festival, the Director of the Festival has to submit documents to Joint Secretary (Films) along with the request for exemption. The documents include a list of films to be screened at the festival, synopsis of each of the films and composition of the Preview Committee.

According to the synopsis, ‘The Unbearable Being of Lightness’ focuses on the epicenter of struggle for social justice right after Vemula’s death and weaves in it the suicide note and press coverage at the time of his suicide.

‘In the Shade of the Fallen Chinar’ shoots the life of young Kashmiris before the current unrest began and what inspires their art and how it takes the form of resistance in conflict ridden Valley, while ‘March March March’ looks extensively into what happened in Jawaharlal Nehru University on February 9, 2016 and its aftermath. The film profoundly engages into the aspects that led to the massive student uprising.

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