The Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) has rallied behind filmmaker Kunjila Mascillamani who, the other day, was removed from the venue of the 3rd Women's International Film Festival in Kozhikode for protesting the omission of her work, 'Asangadithar'.
The Collective that is engaged in enabling 'equal spaces and equal opportunities for women in cinema' wrote to the chairman and secretary of the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy that hosted the festival.
The Academy chairman Ranjith had called Kunjila's protest a mischief.
Calling the incident at Kairali Theatre as unfortunate, WCC has urged the Academy to 'take corrective measures immediately' and have a dialogue with Kunjila.
Meanwhile, Kunjila, who shared the WCC note on her Facebook page, said she was the only woman filmmaker who was disrespected at the film festival venue.
"The Academy did not treat the other female filmmakers with disrespect. They only disrespected and humiliated me. It looked like the academy was punishing me for asking them a set of very valid question (sic). I hope they mend their ways," Kunjila wrote.
The WCC letter to Chalachitra Academy:
We are quite appalled by the unfortunate incident that took place at the Opening Event of the 3rd Women’s International Film Festival, Kozhikode.
Kunjila Mascillamani is an SRFTI alum and an independent filmmaker based out of Kozhikode, who has previously won an award at the IDSFFK. She has, as an Independent filmmaker, made short films against great odds. Her last short film ASANGHADITAR, was part of the anthology, Freedom Fight and was released in theatres. Her film is an uncompromising docu-fiction that portrays the terribly backward situations in which women in Kerala have to work.
We understand that this film was not included as part of your programme in the Women’s International Film Festival and that the filmmaker was not given an explanation for the same. While we understand that every organisation is within its rights to make their choices and to stand by those decisions – a public organisation like the Kerala Chalachitra Academy shouldn’t shy away from explaining to the people how they came by their decisions.
However one views it, it is impossible to look away from the fact that a woman filmmaker was treated with utmost contempt and police violence on the premises of a Chalachitra Academy event meant for women filmmakers. This cannot have happened without the tacit support of the Academy. That is disappointing. We feel it is the Academy’s responsibility to have had a dialogue with the filmmaker instead of creating the kind of spectacle which we all saw. We hope you will understand the implications of such decisions and take some corrective measures immediately and engage the filmmaker in a dialogue or at the very least give her a reasonable explanation as to why her film was not included in the festival.
The Chalachitra Academy is mandated with the task of countering the gross commoditization of the film medium and to bring a rightful recognition of the contribution of cinema to the cultural enlightenment of society. Kunjila’s film does just that - brings enlightenment about the state of women workers in Kerala. As part of your mandate, it behoves you to engage in meaningful dialogue with all kinds of filmmakers – not just the powerful or the favoured. Kunjila deserves an explanation, not contemptuous dismissal.
Such festivals are conducted to encourage more women filmmakers. Any young woman watching the events of the last days, are not likely to be filled with confidence in the Academy. This is a bad consequence both for the Academy and for future Malayali women filmmakers. Hence we request you to live up to your mandate to respect and set forth equal opportunity to all filmmakers and to engage in meaningful dialogue with them. We would also like to recommend a more transparent approach to the selection of films - with a process that is open to the scrutiny of all.
WCC would like to place on record it's strong protest against this disrespectful treatment of women filmmakers.