Banned by the censors, rejected by Mumbai International film festival, now being awarded by the President of India! 

 

In the just announced 53rd National Film Awards, Rakesh Sharma’s internationally-acclaimed documentary Final Solution about the Gujarat carnage has been given the Special Jury award comprising a Rajat Kamal and a cash prize of Rs Ten Thousand. The Jury awarded the film “for its powerful, hard-hitting documentation with a brutally honest approach lending incisive insights into the Godhra incident, its aftermath and the abetment of large scale violence”. ( http://pib.nic.in/archieve/others/2007/aug07/53rd_nfa-2005.pdf)


Said Rakesh Sharma, “Final Solution itself is a perfect illustration of why there should be no censorship for documentaries. The President of India is now recognizing the film for its merit and excellence. Curiously, in sharp contrast to the National Film Award Jury, the CBFC (censor board), while banning the same film in 2004 had observed that the film “promotes communal disharmony among Hindu and Muslim groups and presents the picture of Gujarat riots in a way that it may arouse communal feelings and clashes among Hindu Muslim groups.” According to the CBFC, the film “attacks the basic concept of our Republic i.e. National Integrity and Unity. Certain dialogues involve defamation of individuals or body of individuals. Entire picturisation is highly provocative and may trigger off unrest and communal violence. State security is jeopardized and public order is endangered if this film is shown…. ” Widespread public outcry and protest campaigns led the CBFC to clear the film without a single cut in Oct 2004. Both the ban and CBFC’s subsequent clearance came during the UPA’s regime.

Ironically, the government-run Mumbai International film festival (MIFF) rejected the same film on the grounds that it wasn’t good enough, refusing even to screen the film, let alone allow it in Competition! However, the week after MIFF, Final Solution created history at Berlin by winning two awards, including the Wolfgang Statudte award, never given before to a documentary film!

Reacting to the National award itself, Rakesh Sharma said, “I am delighted and saddened at the same time. Delighted because after 30 international awards for my last two films, this is my first National Award! Delighted also as now Doordarshan will telecast the film to a wider audience in view of its policy convention and judgements by the Supreme Court and Bombay High Court. Saddened because the ugly shadow of censorship continues to mark the National Film Awards, leading to its boycott by a section of documentary film-makers.”

Stressed Rakesh Sharma, “When an arm of the Government of India honours the film while another arm harasses the film-maker and then bans the film, it makes the Indian State appear schizophrenic. I hope the Government will do away with censorship for documentaries, especially in view of its stated commitment to Right to Information as well as Freedom of Expression. Documentaries should instead be brought under the purview of the Press Council of India – after all, what is the difference between an NDTV special report on Gujarat riots and Final Solution? A ban on Final Solution seems absurd! Police action to prevent screenings of documentaries seems totally farcical. There is no space for such censorship in a mature Democracy – I urge sections of civil society to join us in our campaign against censorship of documentaries.”

Final Solution is a study of the politics of hate. Set in Gujarat during the period Feb/March 2002 – July 2003, the film graphically documents the changing face of right-wing politics in India through a study of the 2002 genocide of Moslems in Gujarat. Final Solution is anti-hate/ violence as ” those who forget history are condemned to relive it “.

The film has over 20 international awards and has been screened at over 80 international film festivals (details below and on http://www.rakeshfilm.com). These include two awards at its premiere at the Berlin International film festival and the prestigious Index on Censorship award in 2005
Final Solution (India; 2004; DVD; 149 minutes)
Awards:

  • Wolfgang Staudte award & Special Jury Award (Netpac), Berlin International film festival (2004)
  • Humanitarian Award for Outstanding Documentary, HongKong International film festival (2004)
  • Montgolfiere d’Or (Best Documentary) & Le Prix Fip/Pil’ du Public (Audience award), Festival des 3 Continents at Nantes (France; 2004)
  • Best Film, Freedom of Expression awards by Index on Censorship (UK ; 2005)
  • Silver Dhow, Zanzibar International film festival (2004)
  • Best documentary, Big MiniDV (USA; 2004)
  • Special Jury Award, Karafest (Karachi; 2004)
  • Special Jury Award, Film South Asia (Kathmandu; 2005)
  • Human Rights Award, Docupolis (Barcelona; 2005)
  • Special Jury Mention, Munich Dokfest (2004)
  • Special Jury Mention, Bangkok International filmfest (2005)
  • Nominee, Best Foreign Film, Grierson Awards (UK; 2004)
  • Best Documentary, Apsara Awards (India;2006)
  • Special Award by NRIs for a Secular and Harmonious India (NRI-SAHI), NY-NJ, USA (2004)
  • Special Award by AFMI, USA-Canada (2004)
  • Special Jury Award, Worldfest 2005 (Houston)
  • Special Jury Award, Mar Del Plata Independent film festival (2005; Argentina)

Screened at over 80 international film festivals.

Rakesh Sharma: A brief profile : Rakesh Sharma began his film/TV career in 1986 as an assistant director on Shyam Benegal’s Discovery of India. His broadcast industry experience includes the set up/ launch of 3 broadcast channels in India: Channel [V], Star Plus and Vijay TV and several production consultancy assignments. He returned to independent documentary film-making in 2001. His first independent film Aftershocks : The Rough Guide to Democracy has been screened at over 100 international film festivals.

It got the Best documentary film award at Fribourg, Big Mini-DV and at Jeevika ( India) and won 8 other awards {including the Robert Flaherty prize}at various festivals in USA and Europe during 2002-03. His latest film Final Solution deals with the politics of hate. It has been screened at over 80 filmfests and has over 20 awards ( Berlin, HonKong, Karachi, Zanzibar, Index on Censorship etc). Both films were rejected by the government-run Mumbai International film festival in 2002 and 2004 respectively.
website: http://www.rakeshfilm.com
blog: rakeshindia.blogspot.com

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