Films screened at IFFM representative of 100 years of cinema: Asher

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Hon Louise Asher
Jospephs Gate

Victoria’s Tourism Minister hits back at criticism about dominance of recycled Hindi films at festival

Victoria’s minister for tourism and events Louise Asher has hit back at criticism about the dominance of recycled Hindi language films in the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne, saying movies were chosen in line with the theme: “Celebrating 100 Years of Indian Cinema”.

State Labor MP Jude Perera raised the criticism in Parliament in October, saying he had received numerous complaints from members of the community who were upset that the publicly funded festival was using old films instead of supporting the work of emerging Indian artists.

He said people were also upset about the dominance of Hindi language films, saying 65 per cent of the movies screened in 2013 were Hindi, while 50 per cent were Hindi in 2012.

Ms Asher’s senior media advisor has now responded to the criticism, saying MrPerera failed to mention the theme of this year’s festival was celebrating the centenary of Indian cinema.

In keeping with the theme, the festival “featured a number of Indian classics, including a retrospective on the careers of the esteemed Yash Chopra and AmitabhBachchan”, Ms Asher’s senior media advisor wrote in a letter to the editor to be published in the Indian Sun.

“The Festival was able to screen India’s first feature film, Raja Harishchandra, 100 years to the day after its first screening in 1913,” the letter stated.

Responding to criticism about the dominance of Hindi films, the minister’s advisor said a number of Indian languages were represented in the festival aside from Hindi, including Punjabi, Marathi, Bengali, Urdu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Gujarati, Bangladeshi and English

“Language groups represented in the 2012 festival included English, Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Urdu, Nepali, Marathi, Sinhala, and Telugu,” the letter stated.

IFFM director MituBhowmick said a group of curators chose the films based on their selection in other film festivals around the world and awards.

“Given we were celebrating 100 years of cinema and magnificent careers in retrospectives it is only natural that a lot of the films were classics and released earlier,” she said.

She said the festival also included a selection of what were deemed the best Bollywood blockbusters from the past 12 months, saying: “The Indian Festival of Melbourne is not for Indians only, but film lovers from all walks of life.”

Previously, MrPerera complained that film festivals were supposed to provide a platform for new and emerging filmmakers who do not have the opportunity to show their work in the commercial sector.

“The best way to develop closer ties with the Indian subcontinent is to provide a platform for Indian artists, not to recycle films already screened commercially and sitting in somebody’s garage,” he said.

The Victorian Government tendered the contract for the festival in October 2011, saying the festival of Indian cinema should be designed to “develop closer ties” between Victoria and the subcontinent.

Ms Bhowmick’s company Mind Blowing Films won the $450,000 three-year contract to run the festival from 2012 to 2014.

When the festival was launched, Ms Asher said she saw it not just as a cultural event but “in the context of a desire to have an economic and a cultural relationship with India, long term”.

Responding to MrPerera this week, Ms Asher’s advisor said the Coalition Government was a proud supporter of the film festival and Indian community.

“We have an excellent Ambassador in Vidya Balan who has shown a real commitment to Melbourne and Victoria. The Government intends to deliver on the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne in both 2014 and 2015,” she said.

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