Government to waive royalty on screening short films in theatres

MUMBAI: The Government is expected to waive the one per cent royalty fee levied on exhibitors to screen documentaries, which had led to lengthy legal proceedings till the Supreme Court dismissed the petition by the exhibitors.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni, announcing this while inaugurating the Mumbai International Film Festival for documentary, short and animation films (MIFF), also promised to turn this festival into an annual feature.

At present, the Festival is held every alternate year and alternates with the International Children’s Film Festival organized in Hyderabad by the Children’s film Society, India.

She also announced that the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune would be upgraded to the level of a global film school.

Emphasizing the increasing demand for animation films all over the world, she announced that the government was planning to establish a National Centre for Animation, Gaming and Visual Effects (VFX).

She said in response to remarks by earlier speakers that the Museum of Moving Images being set up in the Films Division’s premises would have the best international technology and would definitely be ready by 2013, when India celebrates 100 years of Indian cinema.

She appealed to the film fraternity to make films on changes taking place in the hinterland of the country through government schemes under Bharat Nirman.

Earlier Chief Guest and renowned filmmaker Yash Chopra said the history of post-Independent India would be incomplete without the documentaries of the Film Division. He wanted the Division to re-organize its collection of films into various categories and make them available to people in digital format and also through the web platform.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan assured filmmakers from all over the world that they were welcome to Mumbai and there would be no second censoring.

Festival Director and Chief Producer of Films Kuldeep Sinha said that most of the Division’s 8,100 films had been digitized.

The seven-day MIFF 2010 had received 864 entries from nearly 37 countries including India. A total of 64 films have been chosen in the Competition section and 43 in the Non-Competition section. The total award money has been increased to Rs 2.3 million across nine categories.

The V. Shantaram Lifetime Achievement Award of Rs 500,000 with a Golden Conch is to be awarded to the pioneer filmmaker MV Krishnaswamy. He had been an active filmmaker between 1956 and 1982.

Meanwhile, there was general consensus at the first Open Forum on ‘Creating a Documentary Culture’ by the IDPA that institutions of Mass Communication have to build a culture in association with organizations like the Films Division and the Indian Documentary Producers Association that encourages the ‘remote control’ generation of the present day to make and appreciate documentaries.

Corporate houses should also come forward with funds as documentaries serve a social purpose as they relate the situation on the ground.

This was as part of the Mumbai International Film Festival for Documentary, short and animation films.

Inaugurating the Open Forum, Sinha said it is necessary for filmmakers to create a need for viewers to insist on viewers to want to see them in cinema houses or television channels. He said that organizations like IDPA should tap new filmmakers since they generally began their careers with documentaries.

Jeroo Mulla, Head of Media in the Sophia Institute of Mass Communication in Mumbai, said she was personally encouraging gender and women-based films. She said the only way to increase awareness about the documentary genre was to have more Festivals and welcomed the announcement by Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni that MIFF would be made an annual affair. She also welcomed the Minister’s announcement for waiver of the one per cent tax charged from exhibitors for showing short films under the Compulsory Exhibition Scheme.

But she said the government needed to take greater interest in film institutes so that those who passed out could make good documentaries. She welcomed the initiative by NDTV of a weekly slot for short films.

Mayura Amarkant who is Chief Course Coordinator of MRT League of Colleges in Mumbai said that her institution insisted on documentary analysis to familiarize students with the format, and her experience had shown that even reluctant students had then come back for more.

She said the power of the documentary is to educate en mass and therefore educational institutions should join together for furthering this movement.

Priti Chandriani who is herself a documentary filmmaker said workshops could help in create an awareness about the format. She had found that once enthused, audiences were prepared to even pay for such films.

Jane Swamy who is Dean at the Xavier Institute for Mass Communication said the government must help to get the documentaries back in theatres before every feature film. She said there was a demand for the documentary genre and people had begun to understand that it was the real custodian of actual events.

Father Lawrie of the Xavier Institute said it was unfortunate that the soul was missing in some contemporary documentaries and wanted filmmakers to bring in the culture of ‘social mindedness’ that could appeal to the remote control generation of today.

Ramesh Tekwani who is General Secretary of IDPA and conducted the discussion said it was also important to draw a distinction between the documentary filmmakers and the short filmmakers since the latter generally aimed at feature films. Sensitization of the documentary format was necessary.

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