The Films Division in Mumbai has cancelled its weekly FD Zone screening of documentaries and shorts slated for Friday, reportedly to avoid the perception that it had allowed its premises from being used as a platform for striking students of the  Film and Television Institute of India.

The programme for each event, which includes FD productions as well as independent titles, is decided by a rotating list of filmmakers. On September 4, FD Zone was slated to have shown the works of recent FTII graduates as well as four shorts made by students who are participating in the ongoing strike at the institute against the government’s controversial appointments to the FTII Governing Council.

The organisers will now hold the event at  Bhupesh Gupta Bhavan, the Mumbai office of the Communist Party of India. The films on the  bill include Level Zero, a partial allegory made by a collective of the strikers about a “mysterious illness” that takes over the FTII campus. The fog of smoke that descends on the campus clears to reveal a blank board

In Feel in the Blanks, a tamasha group led by veteran stage director Sunil Shanbag rehearses a performance that is attended and filmed by the students.

Songs of a Camel Driver comprises black-and-white footage of the protests.

The fourth short, Strike: Day 70, is by filmmakers Anand Patwardhan and Simantinu Dhuru. They travelled to Pune on August 20 to attend a commemoration of the second death anniversary of the murdered rationalist Narendra Dabholkar.

There are deeper links between Dabholkar’s death and the institute than are immediately apparent. In 2013, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad members beat up FTII students at an event marking Dabholkar’s murder, where Patwardhan’s acclaimed documentary Jai Bhim Comrade was shown followed by a performance by the radical Dalit cultural organisation Kabir Kala Manch. The ABVP’s state unit president, Narendra Pathak, is among the recent controversial appointees to the FTII Governing Council along with television actor Gajendra Chauhan and Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh member and filmmaker Anagha Ghaisas.

The other six shorts have been made by final year students, and they include Pranjal Dua’s Taiwan New Wave-influenced National Award winner Chidhiya Udh.

CHIDIYA UDH | TRAILER from pranjal dua on Vimeo.

With the choice of Bhupesh Gupta Bhavan as the alternate venue for the September 4 programme, the FD Zone curators have come full circle. In 2004, filmmakers outraged at the rejection of politically sensitive documentaries for the biannual Mumbai International Film Festival that is organised by FD pulled out their titles and organised a parallel event called Vikalp Films for Freedom at Bhupesh Gupta Bhavan. When FD Zone was initiated, it represented a meeting ground between the state-run organisation and the independents.

It is too early to say whether the truce will break, but bigger flashpoints are in store, such as the next MIFF, which is scheduled to take place in Mumbai early next year.