IMPHAL, December 18: In a bizarre case, Aribam Syam Sharma’s latest award winning film Leipaklei has been left out by the jury of the 8th Manipur State Film Festival after having won acclaims in many parts of the world. Another notable omission is the national award winning film Phijigi Mani.
According to reports, more than 40 films were sent for screening for the feature film section while another 31 vied in the non-feature category this year.
The nine films deemed more deserving by the jury members over the two critically acclaimed films are Mamado Leishabido Angaobido, Yaiskul Gee Pakhang Angaoba, Thashi Thanou, Lanphamda Ibeni, Meiranbi, Luhongbagi Ahing, Imagee Laman Shingamdre, Sangkhraba Machu and Govindagee Sharik Makhol.
The jury’s revulsion for national award winning films was observed in the non-feature category as well. Of the 12 non-commercial films or documentaries selected, the major entries that failed to make the cut were The Silent Poet, by Barun Thokchom and Gun and A God by Sonia Nepram, both national award winning entries, and other documentaries that were accorded entries at NIFF including Boiling Blood by Bishwamitra, Coma by RK Lalmani, Indigenous Musical Instruments of Manipur by RK Jananranjan.
Festival director K Sobita Devi told this reporter that the objective of the festival is ‘to screen quality films and to promote film making in the state’. She said that the jury members are individuals who command profound knowledge of film aesthetics and they have been chosen from ‘various diversified fields’. When queried on the wisdom of national award winning films being left out as unqualified for screening at the state level by the local jury members, she said “We need to dissect the clarification of the jury members on why the films were considered unqualified by them. This will be given on December 23.”
There is a need to showcase documentaries at the festival which are not aimed at monetary returns, clarified Sobita adding that the filmmakers are welcomed to approach Manipur Film Development Corporation anytime. “We will be glad to screen their documentaries,” she stated.
Sobita also mentioned that the names of the jury members cannot be disclosed until the process for selection of the awards is over. But, according to reliable sources, the jury members for feature film selection are jury chairman Sagolsem Indrakumar, Yenkhom Roma, K Gunileima, L Banka Sharma, Budha Chingtham, Thoidingjam Tombi, Dr Akshaykumar, Ch Kamala and B Jayantakumar Sharma.
The source also added that the three juries for the non-feature selection are K Madhumangol, L Ram Sharma and Silaramani. Ram Sharma is the uncle of one of the entrants in the non-feature category L Surjakanta, who got the jury’s nod for his documentary Guru Thanil. Surjakanta is also a member of the board of directors of MFDC.
Arts and Culture commissioner, Dr RK Nimai who is also the organizing committee chairman stated today in his presidential speech at MFDC that finding jury members who are not related with the filmmakers whose films has been entered for competition is a tough task.
Talking to this IFP reporter at the sidelines, he said that he has no knowledge of the wisdom of the jury members about disqualification of national award winning films. He however commented that only the financial aspects are handled by him and the budget of the festival has been fixed at Rs 18 lacs. The cash rewards have been hiked from Rs 8,000 to Rs 15,000. A total of 46 awards in different categories will be conferred at the end of the festival, he said.
A film maker on the condition of anonymity has shared his views that the whole process of selecting the films has been done in a very suspicious manner. Without intending to challenge the credibility of the jury members, he stated it seems they have succumbed to pressure from a group of lobbyists, whose motives and credentials are questionable. A state festival of such magnitude should not be ghettoized and turn it into a ‘wish-fulfilment festival’, he added.