Of the three films denied screening permission at the upcoming International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala, one has been on YouTube for several months. In the Shade of Fallen Chinar, made by Fazil NC and Shawn Sebastian in June 2016, explores the music and visual arts being produced by students of the University of Kashmir in Srinagar. The chinar trees on the campus have provided shelter to students exchanging songs, poems, stories, photographs and ideas considered subversive by a government in denial.
“Conflict is a perfect place for art,” says one of the students. Declares another, “Life is revolution.”
Fazil and Sebastian assemble musicians, photographers and the editor of a campus tabloid – young men and women who have only known conflict, who have been marked by personal loss, and who are deeply affected by the troubles in the Valley. A totemic fallen chinar tree that has been converted into an art object that helps them express their feelings.
One student neatly sums up the minor efflorescence: “Nothing can happen abruptly. The youth are into escapism…not from reality but the harshness and conflict.”
In the Shade of Fallen Chinar forms a trilogy of campus protest films, along with PN Ramachandra’s The Unbearable Being of Lightness and Kathu Lukose’s March, March, March. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has denied the International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala permission to screen the three titles. Ministry clearance for film festivals is mandatory, with a tacit understanding that explicit and provocative works that will not pass censor regulations can be shown within a festival setting.
Co-director Fazil said the ministry’s decision was surprising, especially since the film was a personal project that was posted on YouTube soon after its completion. “I was perplexed, to be frank, I didn’t know the reason,” he told Scroll.in. “We will be conducting protest screenings, and we will be approaching the Kerala High Court in our personal capacity to challenge the decision.”
Fazil has travelled to Kashmir several times, and counts many of the university students as his friends. What was initially a set of freewheeling videotaped conversations cohered into a 16-minute tribute to student resistance. “The fallen chinar is a metaphorical tale of how choked up the situation in Kashmir is,” Fazil said.