Denied censor exemption, documentary filmmaker to move court, says effort to stifle freedom of expression

"There has been a concerted effort from the government's side to curtail freedom of expression of artistes in diverse spheres over the last three years," said the director.

Written by Sajin Saju | New Delhi | Published:June 11, 2017 8:13 pm
censorship, documentary censorship, I&B ministry, I&B ministry ban, In the Shade of Fallen Chinar, central government ban, documentary ban, kashmir unrest, kashmir valley, indian express Shawn Sebastian and Fazil N.C, directors of ‘In The Shade of Fallen Chinar’

Shawn Sebastian, whose documentary “In the Shade of Fallen Chinar” has been denied censorship exemption by the Central government, said they would approach the Kerala High Court on Monday for an interim relief with an aim to screen the film at the tenth edition of the International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFFK).

“There has been a concerted effort from the government’s side to curtail freedom of expression of artistes in diverse spheres over the last three years,” Shawn Sebastian told indianexpress.com in an exclusive interview. On Saturday, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had sparked off a controversy after denying Censor exemption to three documentaries based on recent national controversies, for screening at the upcoming festival.

Interestingly, the documentaries which have come under the government’s scanner deal with controversial topics like the Jawaharlal Nehru University students’ agitation (March, March, March), the unrest in Kashmir Valley (In the Shade of Fallen Chinar) and the Rohith Vemula issue (The Unbearable Being of Lightness).

The poster of the documentary

Responding to the development, Sebastian, who co-directed the film with NC Fazil, said: “Normally, the approval of judges is considered as the criteria for screening. The government’s decision was not expected at all.” He said they are yet to receive any official response from the Ministry in connection with this decision.

Films showcased at film festivals do not require a certificate from the Censor Board but are required to get a censor exemption certificate from the Ministry in order to get them screened at a festival.

Also Read: How a fallen Chinar has become the mouthpiece of these Kashmir University students

Sebastian also believes the government has made a conscious decision to not allow these films to be screened as it dealt with issues which pose uncomfortable questions. “It clearly reflects in this decision. Personally, I don’t think there should be any objections as my film doesn’t promote violence,” he insists.

In the Shade of Fallen Chinar was shot a month before the turmoil in the Valley had triggered off. The 16-minute short-film casts a glance at how students in Kashmir University are telling their stories, through art, music and photography, in the strife-torn Valley.

Beginning on June 16, the festival is organised by the Kerala State Chalachithra Academy, a body under the state government’s Department of Cultural Affairs.

Expressing his disappointment over denial of permission, Academy chairman and Festival Director Kamal said there is a ‘cultural emergency’ prevailing in the country. “We are going through an undeclared emergency in the country. What we should eat, what we should wear, what we should talk all this is being decided by the ruling dispensation,” he had said while addressing a press conference on Saturday.

“All the films, except these three, got an exemption. The Ministry hasn’t cited any reason for denying Censor exemption for these films, which are based on socially relevant themes. I think these films were denied screening permission because they deal with intolerance in the country. We have moved an appeal, asking the Ministry to consider the plea seeking censor exemption again. We are yet to get a reply,” Kamal said.

Echoing similar views, Sebastian said, “Yes, I completely agree with Kamal’s remarks. The latest attack on documentary follows a pattern over the last three years wherein freedom of expression of artists in diverse spheres is being curtailed.”

Insisting that documentaries and censorship do not go hand in hand, Sebastian said documentary as a genre has never toed the line of government with regards to its themes and story lines. “If such pre-festival permissions by the government become the norm of the day, documentary as a genre and documentary film festivals as a space for freedom of expression will lose its relevance,” he said.

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  1. P
    Prof Vijayan
    Jun 12, 2017 at 4:54 pm
    For the sake of our mother land, please refrain from projecting half truth. "Beware of half truth. You may have gotten hold of the wrong half"
    Reply
    1. R
      rajdeep
      Jun 12, 2017 at 8:59 am
      This director Kamal (real name Kamaluddeen) is a CPM political worker and is a possible CPM candidate for a bypoll. This shows to what extent the commies have infiltrated in every government department - even in arts and culture. It was the same case in Bengal as well for more than 40 years. Now TMC has removed them one by one. These commie s destroy the entire cultural legacy of a state and bring in their narrow gutter politics. They have been overthrown from everywhere and now it is time to uproot them and throw them away from this country.
      Reply
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        Antony
        Jun 12, 2017 at 6:05 am
        I have a great story which has lies drama szex, climax and religion. A Christian church priest who spoke against child abuse was arrested in Kerala for actually raping a minor answer making her pregnant. The 17-year-old gave birth to a baby at a private hospital last month and the Christian priests accused had shifted both the mother and the newborn to an orphanage in north Kerala’s Wayanad to hush up the incident. Christian Father Robin Vad mchiryil (48), the vicar of St Sebastian church in Kottiyoor, was arrested after the girl narrated the incident to officials of childline, a telephone helpline for children in distress. Childline officials then tipped off police. The church official had allegedly abused the girl at the computer cl provided by the church, police said. A spokesperson of the Thalasserry diocese said the priest has been taken out of all religious duties. Police said a DNA test will be held on the priest to ascertain to strengthen the case.
        Reply
        1. A
          Antony
          Jun 12, 2017 at 5:55 am
          I have a great story. Please make a movie on rampant corruption and rapes in christian churches. Kerala Christian priest arrested for molesting 11-year-old boy. Identifying the accused as Christian church Father Basil Kuriakose, police said the 65-year-old abused the 11-year-old boy in the school dormitory on night of December 21. The incident happened when the other residents were on vacation. "The accused stripped the boy before molesting him. He also tried to sodomise him," police said.
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            Maya
            Jun 12, 2017 at 4:30 am
            These third rate amateurs call themselves artists! Lol!!
            Reply
            1. R
              Raj
              Jun 12, 2017 at 5:36 am
              RSS Safron Chaddi gang Troll Alert
              Reply
              1. A
                Antony
                Jun 12, 2017 at 5:47 am
                White supremacist Christian brown slaves rapists trolls allert.
            2. M
              Maya
              Jun 12, 2017 at 4:28 am
              Why can't these naxals make movie on exodus of Kashmiri Pandits and how money from Kerala temples are distributed towards common wealth while that of churches and mosques are managed privately. These thieves , naxals and jihadis have been living on Hindu money with the help of violent politicians ru Kerala. Now, they are making use of the 'Nehruvian disaster ' which is freedom of expression to say any rubbish against the country, army and the majority Hindus.
              Reply
              1. R
                Raj
                Jun 12, 2017 at 5:37 am
                They should make movies on RSS Lynching of innocent and creating riots to win elections and EVM tampering Corruption of BJP.
                Reply
                1. A
                  Antony
                  Jun 12, 2017 at 5:50 am
                  How about movies in many Christians church masscre HItler lynching of innocents in the name of terrorist Jesus? How about on 70 million rapist christian padre priets?
                  1. S
                    shaad
                    Jun 12, 2017 at 8:02 am
                    Fake name Anthony and Maya, I think you forgot Asaram Bapu and Nityanand Swami. How many women did they rape including underage girls. There are numerous instances where girls are ualy exploited by self proclaimed swami's and pujaris in the name of devdasis. That does not mean that the religion is itself bad, no religion teaches to do bad. If some s do bad in the name of religion it is not religion's fault, and dare not call Christ as a terrorist, cause if you call him so will Krishna be called as one as he incited Brothers against Brothers, students against teacher and nephews against uncle. Have some shame before opening your filthy mouth.
                2. T
                  Thrinethran T
                  Jun 12, 2017 at 1:14 am
                  Fallen Chinar sounds ominous in today's cir stances, but then the Left is on a risk-all gamble in their jihadi alliance.
                  Reply
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                    Ajay Nair
                    Jun 12, 2017 at 12:51 am
                    Ha ha! These s who only discovered that India has Censor Board after 2014 are vert funny.
                    Reply
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