Without consultation IFFM is mere tokenism for community


The ongoing debate about the IFFM is splitting the community and undermining efforts to promote and support Indian film in Victoria.

This discord has reached state parliament and once again shows a level of disunity on these matter that is distressing.

Fundamentally those of us who love Indian culture and left embarrassed when the both the tender and the scope of the current film festival is turned into a political football by a very small group of people.

What is needed is not another point to score political point scoring game but rather genuine stakeholder consultation with the broader Indian community.

It is rather a mute point as to whether the FIAV has been consulted.

There are far more Indian cultural groups than the small clique aligned to FIAV.

The Napthine Government is making the same mistake as the Brumby government made with Indian student issue. Rather than listening to the Indian community they are consulting the same old faces. New voices and new vision are ignored.

Consultation for this film festival should not be hijacked by a small group from the eastern suburbs. The Indian community is now vast and covers the west, north as well as the east and south.

Some of these migrants have groups that dwarf the total membership of FIAV.

I would like to ask the sporting and cultural groups in the Indian community if they have been asked for their views on the current festival. What films do they want to see? How can an Indian film festival be successful without involving Indians?

We need to views of young families and students about this festival as well as older community members.

In the recent expansion in Indian migrants we can see that the vast majority are not aligned to any umbrella group. As a councillor I am astounded by the growing diversity of Indian cultural, dance and music groups who are tapping into local government programs. This diversity of language and cultural expression needs to be matched by increased resources and more up to date government thinking in this area. The culturally active Indian community in Victoria deserves a film festival that reflects that energy and diversity. By excluding the community from the discussion we cannot expect to have an event that excites and attracts the community.

With modern technology we could also be polling the community in a very broad way to get that feedback. This type of direct feedback can happen on social media sites such as Facebook or Youtube. There are so many ways the state government could get the community to vote and comment on this festival. The Indian film is not elitist and the Victorian government is wrong to only consult with a small elite.

Let us not forget that this small elite was the reason why student safety issues on trains and our streets were not addressed in a timely manner. This small elite was busy telling the Brumby government there was no safety problem. That bad advice saw the Brumby government lose votes and many seats along most rail corridors. The small elite that the Brumby government was listening to were not reflecting social reality of recent arrivals or the wider community. This small elite along with some mute MPs ensured that the voice of Indian students and FISA were ignored.

In the first year of the Baillieu government we saw a FISA youth leader announced as young person of the year. There was hope that new Indian voices would be heard. But now we see in this edition of the film festival that we have the current government saying that talking to one person is all the consultation that is needed. The same out-of-touch person who attacked Baillieu for recognising the safety issues in our streets.The same person who failed Brumby. This is like zero consultation for the Indian community. Let’s not repeat the same failed elitist consultation that tarnished Victoria’s reputation in India.

As Brumby’s staff sat in a small huddle with the FIAV leaders the Indian student union FISA used its website to stay in touch with a growing movement of young students who wanted their voices heard, and who were prepared to tell their stories to FISA and the world. In a digital age you can only ignore the community for so long. FIAV and Brumby’s office were working in the pre digital age while each day students sent iphone footage to a youthful Indian media. The old systems of control and denial that FIAV promoted failed Brumby and the whole Victorian community. Consultations with Indian students were rejected at every step. Labor listened to FIAV and ignored its normal practice of consultation. Even the Harmony Rally excluded the students.

Those once excluded leaders, students and activists have now started businesses, professions and some have been elected to local government. Locking out FISA and recently arrived students did not preserve the power of the Premier Brumby or the then cashed up colleges linked to the fake Indian leaders. Brumby made the mistake of placing his faith in the power of cash instead of the power of the people. Brumby paid the price and those 70 colleges were largely wiped from the Victorian scene. But thousands of Indian students have settled across Melbourne and are succeeding in many spheres. Melbourne’s multiculturalism and hope succeeds most when we bypass failed leaders. Now that these students are citizens we must include them in government projects like this film festival.

The current film festival is like something Brumby’s elitist advisers would have put in place — zero real consultation and lacking any real budget. More tokenism for the Indian community.

We need to talk to thousands of Indian community members to create a vibrant film festival. This wider consultation happens with other communities and other projects and it can happen now for the next Indian Film Festival. We do not need to fall into the Brumby/FIAV trap.

To tap into the wider Indian community views on the festival the Coalition of Indian Councillors intends to hold a community forum to debate the future of the IFFM. The Indian film culture is too diverse and too important to be left to a small self selected group.

By involving younger migrants and new groups in this debate we may improve the advice that the current and past Victorian governments have received on Indian culture.

Until we include the wider Indian community in this debate we will not see any improvement in the IFFM program and the political controversy will continue into the state election.

A wider community forum can be supplemented with online community consultation and will allow the facts to be put on the table and common community vision to be developed.

What is clear is to me is that the broader Indian community has not been consulted in Victoria, and that the resources for the festival are not sufficient.

We do not need any high flyer telling us the direct of the festival we need its direction and content put into the hands of the community.

Sadly, we once again have Indian community affairs been turned into a soap opera of division by ‘bit players’ who are putting out-of-date politics ahead of Indian culture.

This sorry state of affairs can only be fixed with bringing the Indian community together to have their say and by joining together to lobby for a bigger and better film festival that puts Indian film at centre stage.

Cr Tim Singh Laurence is a founding member of the Coalition of Indian Councillors. He is also a councilor of the City of Darebin


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