“IFFK is ignoring independent cinema,” newly formed Movement For Independent Cinema body allege

The newly-formed collective of film makers, the Movement For Independent Cinema (MIC) is crying foul stating that the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy, which holds the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) is deliberately ignoring independent cinema.

Sunilnath

The announcement of the new collective was made yesterday in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala. The MIC consists of film directors, technicians, critics and cineastes and the purpose of forming this initiative is to promote independent cinema. What is more, the collective has in excess of 150 members from across Kerala.

IFFK Pivatol for Independent filmmakers

Since its inception in the 1970s, the Independent cinema has ever since remained a slender parallel stream flowing alongside the much larger and dominant mainstream of popular cinema that catered to the entertainment market.

Santosh Bahusenan

Established in 1996, the IIFK had given humongous promotion to the independent stream by premiering these movies in the annual festival. Unfortunately, this very small space too is being taken over by the mainstream cinema of late, especially, when it already has a huge market of its own with well-established lines of commercial distribution and release. In contrast with mainstream cinema, the independent cinema has neither a well coordinated distribution network nor having wherewithal to release the films pan Kerala.

Furthermore, getting satellite rights from television firms is also a nightmare for independent film makers. And that is where IFFK can be of great help to these independent movie makers. Rightly so, it is almost the only venue for these filmmakers to screen their movies to the public.

Core Issue

The Malayalam Cinema Today section of the IFFK screens 14 movies and also gives a grant of Rs.2 lakh to each of the film maker. Also, two of these independent cinemas will be included in the International Competition section. Obviously, this grant is offered to independent filmmakers in order to support and promote quality cinema.

Of late, almost half of this section consisting of movies that have been released in theatres across Kerala and made available on DVDs or online platforms such as Netflix or Amazon Prime. Needless to say, the grant of Rs.2 lakh is not meant for these box office hits in what could be termed as the Rs.50 crore or Rs.100 crore clubs.

Kerala Premiers

Satish Bahusenan

When almost all the renowned festival across the globe has a precondition that films taking part in these festivals should not be available online and should not have been screen in that country or at least the relevant region before the festival, the IFFK insists on Kerala premiers for cinemas in its World Cinema and Indian Cinema Today sections, at the same time, it does not do so for the Malayalam Cinema Today section. This obstinate refusal has the deliberate purpose of including big box office movies in the section.

Krishna Veni

The film buffs visit the film festivals to see the cinemas that have not been released or are not available on online platforms. Presenting them with a package of 14 films with eight of them released all over Kerala and some of them available online is downright ridiculous. It only serves to reduce the stature of the festival. World renowned filmmakers such as Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Shaji N. Karun, both former chairmen of the festival have spoken strongly against this to the media recently. Under the banner of the MIC, independent filmmakers of Kerala are taking up these issues with the Academy and the Department of Culture, Government of Kerala.

Academy Members Should Not Be In Selection panels

Malayalam Film Director, Venu Nair

Also, the MIC is taking strong exception to the Academy’s practice of including its own General Council members in the selection panels and their alleged habit of not watching all the film entries before compiling their selection lists. Until recently, filmmakers were not in the loop and were in dark whether the selection panels had actually seen their films or not. But now with a large number of entries on the online platform Vimeo, it is possible for these filmmakers to know if their films had be seen and if so when and partly or fully and also whether the movies had been downloaded. Some of the members had already approached the Kerala High Court with these grievances. Some members of the MIC have filed another case in the Kerala High Court against the gross illegalities in the selection of two women filmmakers in the KSFD’s programmes of awarding of grants to women filmmakers. Furthermore, the MIC is also contemplating on several protest programmes during and after the IFFK this year till their demands were met.

Major Demands

Dr. S. Sunil

Each selected cinema to the International Competition and Malayalam Cinema Today section should be a Kerala premiere – that is, the film should not have been screened anywhere in Kerala before the festival.

The majority of the selectors in the Malayalam Cinema Today section and the jury for the Kerala State Film Awards should not be Malayalees. Members of the KSCA or the KSFDC should not be included in the selection panels or the juries.

Award a grant of Rs.20 lakh each to all films in the Malayalam Cinema Today section and all Malayalam films in the Festival Kaleidoscope section.

Appoint a new Artistic Director for the IFFK once in every five years.

Organise a film market along with the IFFK on the lines recommended by the Adoor Gopalakrishnan Committee report.

All films that receive the grant from Government should be allowed one week’s exhibition of one-show-a-day at prime time in the KSDFC theatres. This show should be exempt from the hold over condition followed by the theatre now.

Create pre-booking physical booths where film viewers can book seats for the screenings. About 90% of the seats in every theatre should be allotted in this manner

Conduct audits of all financial and other activities of the IFFK transparent and fair.

The office bearers who attended the press conference included Satish Bahusenan, Santosh Bahusenan, Dr. S. Sunil, Sunil Nath, Venu Nair and Krishna Veni.