In the Shade of Fallen Chinar, a short documentary on Kashmir that was embroiled in controversy after being denied censorship exemption by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting last year, hit another stumbling block after being disallowed from screening at the ongoing Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) in its designated slot.
Shot by Fazil NC and Shawn Sebastian, the 16-minute documentary had been selected for the national competition section at the biennial festival organised by the Films Division of I&B ministry. It was scheduled to be screened at the 4.30-6.30 pm slot on Monday.
“The film hasn’t received the certification from the CBFC to be screened. As per the Cinematography Act, a film requires certification or censor exemption. If the certification is there, we don’t have any problem with screening the documentary,” said Manish Desai, Director General, Films Division and Director MIFF 2018. He, however, stated that the film is still in the competition.
Reacting to the development, Fazil said the MIFF hasn’t given any other slot for the film to be screened yet. “So this is what we came to know that we have been denied the censor exception like the previous time at the Kerala film festival. Since there was a verdict from the High Court supporting the ministry’s decision last time, the way forward is to take it legally forward or get a censor certificate. Since the film is already in the public domain, we don’t want to spend our energy on either things,” Fazil elaborated, adding that the film had lots of public screenings within the country and abroad.
In the Shade of Fallen Chinar catapulted to prominence in June last year as it was one of the three short films denied censorship exemption by the I&B Ministry for screening at the tenth edition of the International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFFK).
The short film casts a glance at how students in Kashmir University gather around a fallen chinar tree to tell their stories, through art, music, and photography, in the strife-torn region. It was shot a month before the ongoing unrest in the Valley had triggered off.
Sebastian, however, said that the denial of censor exemption by the I&B ministry for the documentary has once again brought to surface the attempts by the government to stifle dissenting voices.
“What is happening is a wrong precedent. The views of a few officials at the ministry has effectively dismissed the views of eminent jury numbers. MIFF is a prestigious film festival and we are proud of being selected in the national competition category. The jury members consist of accomplished filmmakers. Despite the ministry’s stand, it gives us great pleasure that the jury has recognised the merit of the film. If things go unchanged, in the days ahead, we would see government striking down more documentaries that go against the ideological stand of ruling dispensation,” Sebastian concluded.
Kicked off on 28 January, the week-long fiesta of best documentary, short fiction, and animation films from across the world will conclude on 3rd February.