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Censorship and festivals don't go together, say filmmakers
Panaji, Nov 22 The issue of censorship rules for films festivals has raised its head once again here ahead of the 11-day International Film Festival of India (IFFI) beginning here Thursday, with documentary filmmakers opposed to the current policy.

"IFFI 2006 has the precise rules the Bombay high court stuck down for the National Film Awards in June, especially regarding the 'no censor certificate requirement' for Doordarshan/student films though a certificate is required for all other films," said award winning filmmaker Rakesh Sharma.

IFFI, which is hailed as "India's Cannes", showcases both feature and non-feature films.

Film censorship has been a major issue for directors, especially those in the documentary world, for whom free expression is a crucial part of their attempts to raise crucial and often critical issues.



Anand Patwardhan, a well-known independent filmmaker, told IANS: ""It is most unfortunate that the government has not understood the spirit and logic behind the High Court judgement on the National Film Awards."

According to Patwardhan, the court had ruled that when the task before a jury is to select the best films in the country, and when there already are provisions within the law to exempt film festival spaces from censorship, there is no reason to insist on censor certificates as a pre-requisite to eligibility.

"By extension, the same logic should have applied to the Indian Panorama (section in the IFFI) so that the best films could be selected, regardless of certification," he said.

Anand Patwardhan is known for his deep involvement with civil liberties and democratic rights. His "War and Peace" (2001) made news when the Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC) refused to give a certificate to the film without making cuts, and 'uncertified' films were disallowed from entering government-sponsored film festivals.

Sharma pointed out the politics involved in selection of films.

"Several documentaries that won international awards are totally missing from the (IFFI 2006) Indian Panorama list. These include Gaurav Jani's 'Riding Solo to the Top of the World', Amudhan's 'Pee' and Atul Gupta's 'Waiting', about the missing in Kashmir. 'Final Solution' (by Sharma himself) has won 20 international awards by now," said Sharma.

He brought out the "curious" case of his 'Final Solution', which talks about the perils of religious fundamentalism and intolerance in India today.

In 2004, it was stuck at the censors and didn't get invited to the IFFI, despite winning two awards at Berlin. In 2005, the government disallowed the film from the National Film Awards on grounds that it had obtained a censor certificate but not in that year.

"So though it was produced in 2004 and won awards in 2004, for the directorate of film festivals, the film simply did not exist in 2004 - it was made only in 2005!" said a woeful Sharma.

In its June 2006 judgement, the Bombay High Court questioned the logic and consistency of the policy framed by the government of India for the screening of films for festivals in India - both national and international.

Several networks against censorship have been launched. Films For Freedom, India, calls itself an "action platform" of over 300 Indian documentary filmmakers. They have come together as a "Campaign Against Censorship" in response to an "attempt by the Mumbai International Film Festival to impose censorship on Indian films", according to the group.

The CBFC notes that it is "popularly known as the Censor Board" and reminds visitors to its site that "all films meant for public exhibition, irrespective of their length, whether in celluloid or video or CD or DVD version are subjected to censorship."

It quotes the Supreme Court of India saying: "Film censorship becomes necessary because a film motivates thought and action and assures a high degree of attention and retention as compared to the printed word .... Therefore, it has as much potential for evil as it has for good and has an equal potential to instil or cultivate violent or good behaviour."




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