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Irked filmmakers shun MIFF, organise their own 'Vikalp'

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MUMBAI: The Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) has been surrounded by controversies from Day 1 and still continues to be. First, filmmakers boycotted the festival; then noted film actor and director Girish Karnad withdrew from being the chairman of the national jury of MIFF. Now Lokvangmaya Griha, the Campaign against Censorship (CAC) and Agarkar Vichar Vyaspeeth are organising a six-day programme from 4 - 9 February in Mumbai called 'Vikalp: Films for Freedom.'



Vikalp will provide a platform for filmmakers to show their solidarity, share their work, exchange ideas and debate on the current situation concerning MIFF as well as censorship of documentary films.



This event is being put together entirely through the voluntary efforts and resources of a large section of documentary filmmakers and others sympathetic to the cause of freedom of expression.



There has been an overwhelming response to Vikalp and more than 50 films will be showcased during the event. These include some films that have been withdrawn from MIFF as well as those rejected by the MIFF 2004 selection committee.



Several film-makers who have withdrawn in protest from MIFF 2004 will show their films as well. These include Gautam Sonti - Anjavva is Me, I am Anjavva; Gopal Menon - Naga Story: The Other Side of Silence; Kabir Khan - The Taliban years and beyond; Reena Mohan - On An Express Highway; Batul Mukhtiar - 150 seconds ago; Meghnath and Biju Toppo - Development Flows From The Barrel Of A Gun, P Baburaj and C Saratchandran - The Bitter Drink and Surabhi Sharma - Aamakaar (The Turtle People).



The recent spate of withdrawals by independent film-makers across the country and the resignations by Girish Karnad (jury member) and RV Ramani (film-maker and ex-officio member, MIFF 2004 organising committee) only underscore the campaigns position.



CAC seeks a probe into MIFF 2004 by an independent review committee comprising eminent film-makers and experienced filmfest curators in order to ensure greater transparency during future editions of MIFF. CAC has also suggested a postponement of MIFF 2004 pending review by such a committee. The campaign has been demanding accountability in a public forum like MIFF, which is run by the State with public money, and in the public interest.



The campaign also hopes that urgent measures will be initiated by the festival to address the questions raised by Indian and international film-making community. These include re-constitution of selection committees for MIFF 2004 and for all future editions - the appointment of an independent festival director and a festival programming team and a policy guideline exempting all Indian film festivals from any censorship.



In another significant move, German film-maker Ralf Marschalleck too withdrew his film IAG BARI - Brass on Fire from the international competition section at MIFF 2004 as an act of solidarity with CAC. Ajay Raina who won the Golden Conch at MIFF 2002 has also withdrawn his film - I am Human and so has Pankaj Butalia, Silver Conch winner in 1994; his film - Tracing The Arc.



MIFF 2004 not only rejected well-made and important films, it also did away with the Information Section, which traditionally provided space for films not selected in competition. Vikalp is offering people a choice to see and discuss the films that the authorities did not want anyone to see.



Vikalp started off as a protest to MIFF and has now snowballed into an exciting event in its own right. The Campaign Against Censorship is an action platform of over 275 documentary filmmakers from different parts of India.

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