Mumbai International Film Festival Accused of ‘Backdoor Censorship by Eminent Film-makers

Anand Patwardhan
Anand Patwardhan alleges MIFF of favouring 'backdoor censorship'.

On Tuesday, just before the start of the 16th edition of the Mumbai International Film Festival in Worli, Mumbai, Film-makers Anand Patwardhan and Pankaj Rishi Kumar addressed a press conference.

Patwardhan and Rishi alleged that “backdoor censorship” was practised in the selection of films for the festival and “absolute control” was exercised over the process from Delhi.In their address to the press conference, hours before the start of the festival, they also shared short clips and details of the films “rejected” by MIFF 2020. 

Even films slightly against the philosophy of those in power have been rejected by the “sanskari panel,” alleged Mr. Patwardhan. The week-long festival of documentary, short, fiction and animation films that started on Tuesday will conclude on February 3.According to the reports, Pankaj Rishi Kumar’s Janani’s Juliet, Anand Patwardhan’s Reason/Vivek, Deepti Gupta’s Shut Up Sona are three of the significant films that have not been found suitable for screening.Pankaj Rishi Kumar’s Janani’s Juliet is a take on caste politics through the rehearsals and performance of an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. It won the Best Long Documentary prize at the International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala ( IDSFFK).

Anand Patwardhan’s Reason/Vivek examines the systematic dismantling of the ideals of secular democracy in India, had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and won the Best Feature Documentary award at the renowned International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam(IDFA).

Deepti Gupta’s Shut Up Sona is based on the outspoken singer Sona Mohapatra’s fight against sexual discrimination and harassment and for an equal space for women. It is in the official line-up of the on-going International Film Festival of Rotterdam(IFFR).Anand Patwardhan and Pankaj Rishi Kumar had approached the court against rejection of their films from the Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) on Tuesday. However, the filmmakers  later withdrew their petition as they felt that the judgement that was to be passed by the court, would be on the technicalities’ of the case.According to Mihir Desai, Patwardhan and Kumar’s lawyer,  the filmmakers thought it could be because these films are critical of the present political scenario that they had been rejected.Meanwhile, Anil Singh, Additional Solicitor General, appearing for Films Division of Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, which organises MIFF, told the court that the films were rejected after the selection committee viewed them and that due process of film selection was done.MIFF is the oldest and largest biennial film festival of non feature films in South Asia and is organised by Films Division of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. It was launched in 1990 as Bombay International Film Festival. Along with these three, some more significant films were allegedly rejected in similar way for screening at the Mumbai International Film Festival that kicked off on Tuesday.These include Pradeep K.P. (Deepu)’s Our Gauri that follows the political journey of late Gauri Lankesh and her fight against right-wing communal forces.Sunil Kumar’s Ammi is on student Najeeb’s disappearance on October 15, 2016 from the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus, New Delhi, and the lack of progress in the investigations by the various investigating agencies. Deepa Dhanraj’s We have not come here to die, is about students all over the country breaking the silence around their experiences of caste discrimination in universities and the start of anti-caste movement in the wake of the suicide by dalit Phd research scholar and activist Rohith Vemula.Along woth Yousef’s Saeed’s Dilli Yadon ki Mehfil and  Vani Subramaniam’s take against death penalty – The Death of Us.According to Pankaj Rishi Kumar it is part of the larger agenda to control every institution. “They are not interested in arts and culture… In the future films won’t be made, save by the bhakts,” he said tongue in cheek.The filmmakers also highlighted that 23 hours of time reserved for competition films in the festival has been brought down steadily by about 8 hours, that the RTI to MIFF on the selection was not responded to because of some small technicality and that some of the administrators’ own films have been selected for the festival.

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