Some filmmakers have targeted the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), headed by Bina Paul, for not selecting their films. The jury and the organising body, Kerala Chalachitra Academy, have also been accused not watching the films which did not make the cut.
Having been part of several juries and selections panels, I know that one of the cardinal rules of the game is not to make public the jury deliberations.
A jury is not a body out to seek vengeance or play tit-for-tat. It appears hardly plausible that the jury would have deliberately avoided some movies. Equally important is another fact that I strongly believe in. For example, ask two different juries to watch the same film at the same time in two adjoining rooms. It is quite possible that the two juries may come up with completely different perceptions about the movie.
And a festival may have only limited slots, and it is quite possible that there were ‘better works’ than those not chosen. But theirs is no definitive parameter to find this out.
It’s easy to find fault with the juries without understanding the limitations. Consider the example of a young director with a lot of promise like Leena Manimekalai, whose second feature, Maadathy, An Unfairy Tale, was part of the recently concluded Busan Film Festival. It did not find takers in Kerala.
She quipped in a Facebook post: “I am told my movie was not viewed by the (Kerala) jury this time. It is sad that the IFFK, the Festival that played a crucial role in me becoming a filmmaker, the festival where I have been on pre-selection jury myself, is becoming a playground for politics, corruption and nepotism by a few and the powerful. If I am being targeted for my voice, I will only amplify it. I can be defeated but cannot be destroyed.”
There are three things easily perceptible here. One, she feels it is her right to have her work picked because the festival has played an important role in her becoming a moviemaker. Two, having been on the pre-selection jury in Kerala, she feels that it is her right to have her films in.
Three, she says that she may be targeted for ‘her voice.’
One of the greatest living auteurs in the world today, Japan's Hirokazu Kore-eda's Shoplifters won the most prestigious prize at Cannes in 2018, Palm dÓr. This year, his French language film, The Truth, was not picked by Cannes.
I saw both Shoplifters and The Truth, and I felt that the first was far ahead of the second, and Cannes was justified in not having it as part of its 2019 selections.
A fine director like Sanal Kumar Sasidharan (An Off-Day Game and S Durga) has also talked about IFFK. He averred: “I believe that, it would be huge irresponsibility on my part to participate in the Festival which is openly biased and outdated in its selection process. My latest, Chola, (which premiered at Venice), will be released in theatres soon. I support the 'Reform the IFFK’ movement initiated by my fellow moviemakers in the Indie cinema sector, though I am not part of that movement for personal reasons.”
Is it Sasidharan’s prerogative to oppose the festival? Of course, yes. It is the festival's loss. But his too. Isn’t it?
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is an author, commentator and movie critic)