3 films rejected, Bombay HC asks MIFF to explain selection process

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Friday directed the Union government to state what process was followed by the selection committee of Mumbai International Film Festival while rejecting three documentary films.

A division bench of Justices S C Dharmadhikari and R I Chagla was hearing a petition filed by film makers Anand Patwardhan and Pankaj Kumar after their movies were refused screening at Mumbai International Film Festival.

The petitioners' counsel Mihir Desai argued that no reasons were officially given by the film festival organisers while rejecting the films, but the makers apprehend it could be because the films are critical of the present political scenario.

The five-day festival, scheduled to begin on January 28, is organised by Films Division of the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

It 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.

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

"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 court said.

The petition claimed the selection committee acted in an arbitrary and malafide manner by rejecting the three documentary films.

Patwardhan's film 'Vivek/Reason' documents the ascendancy of 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.

It 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 and scholar Rohith Vemula, and numerous other outbursts of violence, large and small, connecting them to present an overview of the turmoil that India is presently witnessing.

Pankaj Kumar's movie 'Janani's Juliet' 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.

His second entry, 'Two Flags' chronicles the life and politics of Puducherry.

Counsel Desai argued that the petitioners were not even aware at what stage their movies were rejected or on what grounds.

The petition claimed the movies may not have been selected as they are critical of the current political dispensation and/or critical of the political philosophy that they claim to espouse.

The petition has sought the HC to order the film festival director to screen the three films.

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