In a joint statement issued here, K.R. Mohanan (filmmaker), Sunny Joseph (cinematographer), Prakash Bare (actor), K.M. Kamal (filmmaker) and the Kerala chapter of the Federation of Film Societies of India and more than 15 others said: "We, the filmmakers and cineastes, strongly condemn the undemocratic and unjust act of the IFFI authorities, and demand an unconditional apology to the film students in the country."
Their statement comes a day after students and ex-alumni of the Pune-based Film and Television Institute of India, staged a two-day parallel film festival, in protest against alleged harassment meted to them by the organisers of the 46th edition of the International Film Festival of India.
A spokesperson for the FTII students said that over two dozen students were denied registration for IFFI, two ex-students were arrested for protesting at the inaugural ceremony and one student was detained for several hours by the police for wearing a T-shirt with the FTII logo at the festival campus.
FTII students had staged a 139-day strike from June 12 this year, in protest against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the institute's chairman, claiming the artiste was unfit for the position.
After the appointing authority, the union ministry for information and broadcasting, stuck to its guns and did not cancel Chauhan's appointment, the students called off the strike on October 29, but also insisted that their protests would continue at events like IFFI.
The Kerala filmmakers said the injustice meted out to film and television students comes even as IFFI is essentially seen as a celebration of freedom, creativity, democracy and fraternity and that year after year, the festival has served as an open platform to some of the most vibrant and creative visual expressions that have portrayed, challenged and stood against unfreedom of all kinds.
"But this year's IFFI will go down in history for the wrong reasons - most glaringly for systematically and deliberately denying film students, especially from FTII, their right to participate in the festival. Not only were they blocked from entry to the festival, even voices of dissent in support to their struggle were suppressed," the joint statement said.
The organisers of IFFI have rejected the allegations made by the FTII students and thier sympathisers. IFFI Director C. Senthil Rajan told IANS on Thursday that the festival was a place to celebrate cinema and not a playground for politics.
"They (police) have not stopped any delegate or any film student who just came here to watch movies. Our objective is to showcase films. This is not a political arena or a protest arena for people to come in to protest. It is an arena for showcasing films. We have been very clear in that and we have not stopped anybody who wanted to come and enjoy films in the arena," Rajan said.