Majid Majidi, the outspoken Oscar-nominated director of Children of Heaven and Baran, has been making the news regularly in 2017, primarily surrounding his newest film Beyond the Clouds, a collaboration with India which features Indian actors and a script in Hindi, Tamil, and English.
As previously mentioned on the Iranian Film Report, Majidi’s work was set to open the 48th International Film Festival of India (IFFI), representing his second time in attendance as a featured guest of honor. However, one day prior, activist TP Ramakrishnan sent a formal letter requesting that Majidi should withdraw his film from the program in solidarity against censorship. Specifically, Ramakrishnan was referring to the removal of films S Durga and Nude from the festival schedule by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
The Ministry is a long-running co-organizer of IFFI, though its decision to cut these films seems somewhat unprecedented. Normally, a selected festival jury decides on the films, which are often submitted to the Ministry as a courtesy before being unveiled to the public. Filmmaker Sujoy Ghosh, the chairman of this year’s IFFI, immediately resigned upon hearing the news, and other jury members soon followed.
S Durga (originally titled “Sexy Durga,” the name and some other details were changed to appease the censor board) is a road-trip horror movie, and Nude “…traces the life of a woman who secretly works as a nude model for artists in Mumbai.” Both films received accolades at previous festivals, but directors Sanal Kumar Sasidharan and Ravi Jadhav were not even informed of their films’ 11th-hour removals from the schedule. The directors even requested formal explanations from the Ministry, but no official statement has been made as of last week.
Which brings us back to Majidi. The Deccan Chronicle reports that Ramakrishnan sent a letter to the filmmaker, “urging him to pull out his film, Beyond the Clouds, from the IFFI as a show of dissent against the Centre’s move to keep out two films…from the IFFI.” Ramakrishnan referenced other examples of filmmakers expressing solidarity against censorship in his letter, in a request that, by IFFI’s opening, was effectively ignored.
Interestingly, he apparently did not mention Majidi’s own experience with censorship of his work in India; two years ago, Majidi’s film Muhammad: The Messenger of God caused an international stir with its depiction of The Prophet, prompting a fatwa to be issued on the director and his Oscar-wiinning composer A.R. Rahman, also in attendance at IFFI. The Ministry prevented his film’s inclusion in a different festival without a cited reason as well, though it was “…perceived as a move to nip possible chances of controversy.”
As of several days ago, word was released that S Durga may be re-submitted with additional censors for inclusion in the festival. As for Majidi, he did not pull out of the event, and took the stage before the screening with appreciative words. Back in September, he announced that he would be returning soon to work on his second film set in India, Gold Mine.
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