Miffed with MIFF2004, filmmakers to boycott film fest

About 175 leading documentary filmmakers of the country have come together to sound off a clarion call against the censorship of Indian documentaries at MIFF 2004 - the International Film Festival to be held in Mumbai in February 2004. The filmmakers, who have organized themselves under a campaign, are asking Indian as well as international filmmakers worldwide to boycott the festival.

This hue and cry over the much awaited and much celebrated film festival comes in the wake of a decision by the organisers of the festival - Films Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting - to introduce a clause that requires Indian documentaries entered for the festival to be censored.

But that's not all. The biggest bone of contention here is that even as the government is meting out second citizen treatment to its own, foreign filmmakers have been let off the hook, as foreign films entered at the festival do not need to be censored.

.I&B ministry introduces a clause that requires participating Indian documentaries to be censored.

.The clause does not apply to foreign entries.

 Indian filmmakers give a notice to the I&B ministry.

.Sound off a clarion call to boycott the film fest.

.Seek support from leading international filmmakers worldwide asking them not to participate in the festival.

.Seek support from international film festivals abroad asking them to condemn the Miff action.

.Claim support from women's groups, media organisations, civil liberties and democratic rights groups.

The festival was meant to showcase and promote Indian documentaries but participating filmmakers are complaining, pointing out in a joint statement that, "It can hardly claim to do this while it is simultaneously trying to muzzle the voice of the Indian documentary."

Having given a notice to Films Division and the Ministry over a month ago, which they admit did not make much headway, the documentary makers say they are calling a boycott as a last resort. "The Campaign has tried it's best to keep channels of communications open with them. However, except for one meeting of filmmakers with the Joint Secretary (films) and a few stray remarks by the Minister, there has neither been any progress on this nor any communication to us."

A question was also raised in the Parliament following which many parliamentarians have also protested the Miff regulations to the Ministry, they state. Apparently, a decision to the filmmakers' liking has not been taken yet.

The filmmakers, under the banner of the 'Campaign', are now seeking support from leading international filmmakers worldwide asking them not to participate in the festival. They are also writing to all the international film festivals abroad asking for their support in condemning the Miff action. They claim to have the support of women's groups from all over the country as also the support of various media organisations, civil liberties and democratic rights groups.

According to the statement issued by the filmmakers, this is the first time that the government has decided to censor documentaries while at the previous seven editions of Miff as well as the recently concluded PSBT-UNESCO film festival at Delhi, Indian as well as foreign films were screened without censorship certificates or exemptions. Moreover, no international festivals of repute censor films, they contend.

Disappointed with the government policy, the filmmakers say they are working out other measures to promote the screening of documentaries in the country and to encourage the growth of a healthier culture of public screenings.

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