Kerala film school strike overshadows Kannur film festival, filmmakers withdraw movies from fest

Two filmmakers withdrew their movies from the Happiness International Film Festival protesting against the Chalachitra Academy inviting Adoor.

BySreerag PS

Published Dec 20, 2022 | 5:42 PMUpdatedDec 20, 2022 | 7:21 PM

Kerala film school strike overshadows Kannur film festival, filmmakers withdraw movies from fest

The ongoing students’ strike at the KR Narayanan National Institute of Visual Sciences and Arts (KRNNIVSA) in Kottayam cast its shadow on the inaugural function of the Happiness International Film Festival that began in Kannur on Monday, 19 December.

Two directors withdrew their movies from the festival, protesting against the Kerala Chalachitra Academy inviting filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan to inaugurate the event.

Gopalakrishnan is the chairman of KRNNIVSA. Students of the institute have been on a strike against the alleged casteist behaviour of the institute’s director, Shankar Mohan.

In an interview with South First, Gopalakrishnan said the students were spreading blatant lies as allegations. The interview stirred a hornet’s nest with members of the internet community coming out against the veteran filmmaker.

Hours before the festival’s inauguration, the students’ council of KRNNIVSA published a strongly-worded open letter to the academy, condemning it for inviting Gopalakrishnan to inaugurate the fest.

The students also rapped the Kerala government for favouring the film school’s “casteist administration”.

The open letter

“You may have noticed the students’ agitation that is going on for the past fifteen days at the KR Narayanan film institute. The students are protesting in solidarity with those who have opened up about the human rights violations and caste discrimination faced by them,” the students said in the letter to Chalachitra Academy.

Adoor Gopalakrishnan is the chairman of the film institute. (Sourced)

Adoor Gopalakrishnan is the chairman of the film institute. (Sourced)

“Adoor Gopalakrishnan has publicly defended Shankar Mohan despite having several pieces of evidence against him. Adoor Gopalakrishnan has been invited to inaugurate the ‘Happiness Film Festival’ conducted by the academy at this juncture,” the letter read.

The students questioned whether the academy and the state government have noticed the open statements made by the institute’s housekeeping staff.

They also drew attention to Gopalakrishnan’s interview with South First, in which he defended Shankar Mohan, saying he would not do such acts since he hailed from a “noble family”.

“If Shankar Mohan is noble, then who are those five women who dared to tell the inhumane acts they had to face at Shankar Mohan’s residence? Who are those students who exposed Shankar Mohan’s casteist acts, including violation of reservation norms,” the council asked.

“Even after 15 days of students’ agitation and despite having so much evidence, if the academy and the government are unable to understand what we are saying, we surmise you are not with the students or the exploited employees, but with the casteist individuals who divide people based on their castes,” the letter concluded.

Filmmakers boycott the fest

Filmmakers Jeo Baby and Amal Prasi withdrew their movies, Freedom Fight and Bakki Vannavar, respectively, from the Happiness International Film Festival, protesting against Gopalakrishnan inaugurating the fest and in solidarity with the striking students. They announced the decision on their respective Facebook pages.

Shankar Mohan, Director, KRNNIVSA. (Source: KRNNIVSA)

Shankar Mohan, Director, KRNNIVSA. (Source: KRNNIVSA)

Freedom Fight was selected for the Happiness International Film Festival. We are withdrawing the film from the festival. We are withdrawing the film in protest against Adoor Gopalakrishnan who is bringing dictatorial rules and spoiling the students’ future. We withdraw the film and protest against the decision by the Chalachitra Academy and the government,” Baby posted on Facebook.

Prasi, the director of Bakki Vannavar, also took to Facebook to announce that the movie crew members would boycott the festival.

“Everyone should watch cinema as it is a popular art. At the same time, we oppose all the anarchy going on in the institute. Always stands with the downtrodden,” Parsi’s post read.

No comments: Gopalakrishnan 

After the inauguration, Gopalakrishnan ducked questions on the allegations levelled against the institute.

On whether he had noticed any discrimination on the campus, he responded: “Please don’t ask me any questions at the moment. I will not respond to any of them.”

He said it would not be prudent on his part to make any statements now, and promised to respond at the “right time”.

The strike at KRNNIVSA

The students of the film institute have been protesting for over two weeks, demanding the resignation of director Mohan.

A three-member enquiry commission set up by the higher education department to look into the allegations visited the institute on Saturday and held talks with the students and staff.

The students’ council presented ‘evidence’ before the commission in support of the allegations.

The strike also found support during the International Film Festival of Kerala that concluded in Thiruvananthapuram on 16 December. The institute had cancelled the rooms booked for first-year students, who arrived at the state capital to attend the festival.