Indian film fraternity writes an open letter to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, rejecting the draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021 that gives the government power to re-examine certified movies.
The letter is in response to the public comment sought by the Ministry earlier this month on the new draft bill. The letter also demanded the ministry to reinstate Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), “so that aggrieved filmmakers have a chance to file an appeal with the CBFC before going to the High Court”. The film review body was dissolved in April 2021.
The letter will be sent on 02 July as dozens of celebrities continue to sign up endorsing the letter. Signatories include eminent members of the film community including Mira Nair, Vishal Bharadwaj, Vijay Krishna Acharya, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar, Vetri Maaran, Anurag Kashyap, Nandita Das.
It says the amendment will undermine “the sovereignty of the Censor Board and the Supreme Court” and give “provision to effectively give the Central Government supreme power over cinema exhibition in the country potentially endangering freedom of expression and democratic dissent”.
A group of filmmakers, academics and lawyers are behind the letter who drafted it “based on the collective experience of film censorship and drawing from recommendations made by the Justice Mudgal Committee (2013) and the Shyam Benegal Committee (2016) on film certification.
“Instead of devising a cohesive strategy, governments so far have functioned in a piece-meal fashion that have failed to conclusively arrive at a policy that can be empowering for both the film fraternity as well as the audiences,” reads the letter that makes the following suggestions.
1. The Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021 must clearly define the role of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) as a body which certifies film content for public exhibition and not as a censoring body.
2. We recommend that the amendments giving powers to the Central Government to revoke a film certificate must be dropped. We agree with the spirit of the Supreme Court decision which held that this would violate the separation of powers in our democracy.
3. While we agree that film piracy poses real challenges to filmmakers, the proposed amendments do not address this concern effectively merely by introducing a penal provision. If introduced, sufficient exceptions on fair use, de minimis use and derivative work specific to films must be created. Systemic solutions to genuinely counter piracy must be introduced.
4. We recommend that the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) be reinstated, as it enables affordable and accessible remedies to filmmakers.
5. The Cinematograph Act must be amended to include a clear definition of ‘public’ exhibition and bring under its purview only commercial films with substantive capital investment and revenue models tied to theatrical exhibitions.
The filmmakers also ask the government to include “a clear definition of ‘public’ exhibition and bring under its purview only commercial films with substantive capital investment and revenue models tied to theatrical exhibitions”.