In the Shade of Fallen Chinar, the documentary about Kashmiri students reacting to the conflict in their state, was not screened at the Mumbai International Film Festival on Monday in its designated 4.15pm slot. The 16-minute documentary, made by Fazil NC and Shawn Sebastian in 2016, has been selected for the national competition section at the biennial festival organised by the government-run Films Division.
A MIFF official said on condition of anonymity since he is not authorised to speak to the media that the documentary was not screened on “technical grounds”. There is no word yet on whether the film will be given a new slot any time soon.
The documentary is centred on the music and visual arts being produced by students of the University of Kashmir in Srinagar. The students express their thoughts on the ongoing Kashmir conflict through songs, poems, stories and photographs.
“I got to know from my friends in Mumbai that the screening hadn’t taken place,” Fazil told Scroll.in. “There was apparently a technical issue, and the organisers also said that the filmmakers were not present at the screening.” Fazil was travelling to Mumbai via Delhi from Guwahati, and landed in the city only late on Monday night. “Our travel and all other arrangements have been taken care of, so I don’t know what happened,” he said.
In June 2017, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry debarred the International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala from showing the documentary along with two others. The ministry has the right to decide which titles get shown at film festivals. Clearance for the selected titles is usually a formality. But in recent months, the National Democratic Alliance government has been cracking down on films deemed controversial, such as S Durga and Nude, and overruling the decisions of festival selection committees.
In the Shade of Fallen Chinar has been available on YouTube since August 2016. However, the MIFF selection will considerably boost the documentary’s profile. The Films Division festival is one of the most prestigious showcases of short and feature-length documentaries, fictional short films and animation in India. The festival kicked off on Sunday with a screening of Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro, and will run till February 3.