Bombay HC asks MIFF to explain selection process

Filmmakers Anand Patwardhan, Pankaj Kumar file petition after their documentaries were rejected

The Bombay High Court on Friday directed the Centre to state the process that was followed by the selection committee of the Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) while rejecting three documentary films.

A Division Bench of Justices S.C. Dharmadhikari and R.I. Chagla was hearing a petition filed by filmmakers Anand Patwardhan and Pankaj Kumar after their documentaries were not selected for screening at MIFF.

Mihir Desai, the petitioners’ counsel, argued that no reasons were officially given by the MIFF organisers while rejecting the films. The petition claimed the films may not have been selected as they are critical of the current political dispensation and critical of the political philosophy that they claim to espouse. Mr. Desai argued that the petitioners were not aware at what stage their films were rejected or on what grounds.

On Friday, the Bench directed additional solicitor general Anil Singh, appearing for the Centre, to submit on January 27 the records and process followed by the selection committee while rejecting the films.

The Bench said, “The petitioners have an apprehension that their films showing certain content will not be allowed to be screened. Show us what process was followed by the committee. We are not going to curtail your [selection committee’s] freedom to select.”

The petition claimed the selection committee acted in an arbitrary and malafide manner by rejecting the three documentary films. Mr. Patwardhan’s film Vivek/Reason documents the ascendancy of a particular political ideology in recent times. The film covers the murders of rationalists such as Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M.M. Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh, and investigates the connection of these crimes to the various sectarians outfits.

The documentary also looks at violent attacks on Muslims and Dalits in the name of cow protection, the caste-based discrimination that led to the suicide of young student leader Rohith Vemula, and numerous other outbursts of violence, large and small, connecting them to present an overview of the turmoil that India is currently witnessing.

Mr. Kumar’s movie, Janani’s Juliet, follows the story of Indianostrum, a Puducherry-based theatre group, that is disturbed by a spate of honour killings in India and sets out to study the implications of caste, class and gender. His second entry, Two Flags, chronicles the life and politics of Puducherry.

The petition has sought the HC to order the film festival director to screen the three films. The five-day festival, scheduled to begin on January 28, is organised by the Films Division of the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The festival aims to provide a platform for documentary and short film makers from all over the world to meet, exchange ideas and explore possibilities of co-production and marketing of documentary, short and animation films.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 12:01:21 PM |

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