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Indian documakers oppose fest censors

Filmmaker Kak to stage a parallel festival with MIFF?

NEW DELHI — Indian documentarians are threatening to boycott October’s Mumbai Intl. Film Festival after the government demanded they get censor certificates for their entries.

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry said all locally made movies to be screened in India must be submitted to the censors.

The filmmakers contend that this rule has never applied to docs and that foreign entries for MIFF are not subjected to the same control.

Filmmakers claim that the demand is an attempt to gag them, especially as some of the docus are about the rioting last year in western Gujarat state, where 2,000 people — mainly Muslims — were killed in three months of violence between Hindus and Muslims.

Bloody conflict

The bloodletting was sparked by the torching of a train carrying Hindu activists and devotees in February 2002 in the Gujarat town of Godhra by a Muslim mob in which 59 people were killed.

“The answer is simple,” said filmmaker Pankaj Butalia. “This is an election year, and the government does not want the ghost of Godhra raked up again. This clause is an attempt to exercise control, and we want it repealed.”

Around 100 documakers have signed a letter to the ministry appealing for it to drop the clause.

“If the ministry does not agree to our demands, we will boycott MIFF,” said filmmaker Sanjay Kak, who warned that they would stage a parallel festival at the same time as MIFF if the government does not heed their demands.