Anand Patwardhan and Pankaj Rishi Kumar had approached the court against rejection of their films from the Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) that will commence on January 28. The filmmakers, however, 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.
Mihir Desai, Patwardhan and Kumar’s lawyer, had argued that the filmmakers apprehend 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.
Bombay High Court dismisses petition filed by filmmakers Anand Patwardhan and Pankaj Kumar against Mumbai International Film Festival for not selecting their documentary films for screening in the festival. pic.twitter.com/ALx5cJ3GBX
ANI (@ANI) January 27, 2020
Singh had told the division bench of justice SC Dharmadhikari and Justice R I Chagla, “The committee comprises expert filmmakers working independently and the government has no role to play in the selection of the movies. The grounds of rejection were not because the films were critical. There are set parameters followed by the committee while selecting movies.”
Patwardhan’s film Vivek/Reason documents the ascendancy of particular political ideology in recent times and covers the murders of MM Kalburgi, Narendra Dabholkar, Gauri Lankesh and Govind Pansare.
On the other hand, Kumar’s movie Janani’s Julie follows the story of Indianostrum, a Puducherry based theatre group, which disturbed by a spate of honour killings in India, sets out to introspect the implications of caste class and gender. Kumar’s other film Two Flags chronicles the life and politics of Puducherry.
During the hearing, the High Court bench noted the quality of some of the films made by government agencies which had been selected for MIFF.
“We should not inflict further damage to India by not accepting a contrary view. People who voice a contrary view feel that they are targeted and hence are excluded. You (government) should also give them a platform,” Justice Dharmadhikari said. “Suppose, tomorrow there is a movie against the recent law of citizenship, you may reject it here but it may get attention worldwide,” the court said while giving an example.
Speaking after withdrawing the petition, Patwardhan said, There was no way to prove our case. The court did not have the jurisdiction to look beyond the rules followed. While the selection panel had been picked up in such a way that particular films would be left out. My film won Best Feature-Length Documentary at the 31st International Documentary Film Festival, Amsterdam. Our films were in the list of Oscars but even then, they did not make it here in my own country, Patwardhan added.
Kumar also said that they did not want to spoil someone else’s case if they too felt that their film had been unfairly treated by the selection committee and wanted to approach the court. We did not want to set a precedent where it could be pointed out that, look people have approached the court before you and they could not prove their case. So, we withdrew, he said.
Both these filmmakers have decided to hold a press conference on January 28 where they will show excerpts from the films that have been rejected by MIFF.
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