‘The Kashmir Files’ film that has been mired in controversy since its release on March 11 in India has not been banned in New Zealand as was being reported in some news reports overseas.
This was confirmed late yesterday, 20 March by New Zealand’s Chief Censor David Shanks.
“The Kashmir Files film has not been banned in New Zealand,” David Shanks said, but he confirmed that the Classification Office will review its decision to grant this controversial film, the Kashmir Files an R16 certificate.
The Kashmir Files is a 2022 Indian Hindi-language drama film based on the exodus of Hindu people during the Kashmir Insurgency in 1990. It has been released in other countries, including Australia with varying age restrictions.
Directed by Vivek Agnihotri, ‘The Kashmir Files’ stars Anupam Kher, Darshan Kumar, Mithun Chakraborty, and Pallavi Joshi among others, the controversial film has already become a runaway success, thanks to overwhelming government support and tax breaks in several Indian states.
Protests from a section of the New Zealand community are reported to be behind this review of classification and/or against release of the film in this country.
“…after we completed our initial classification process, concerns were raised with me about potential risk of harm to the Muslim community in relation to the release of this film. These concerns appeared to us to be genuine, and sufficiently serious to cause us to pause and review our classification for this film.
“The distributor agreed not to screen the film in the interim.
“To be clear this review is not a ban or a commitment in any way to change the original decision. It may end up being the same. For a publication to be banned it would need to meet a very high bar, “Chief Censor David Shanks said.
The movie was slated to be released at Hoyts cinemas in New Zealand on 24 March but appears to have been withheld, and a note on its website now says ‘TBC’.
Hyots cinema website describes the film, The Kashmir Files as a “heart wrenching narrative of the pain, suffering, struggle & trauma of Kashmiri Pandits, seen through the eyes of Krishna, the protagonist. The film questions eye-opening facts about democracy, religion, politics and humanity.”
The Classification Office is an independent crown entity and makes its own decisions under the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act following set criteria.
“The need to balance freedom of access to information while taking reasonable steps to prevent harm to the public are the key considerations for us, not matters of taste or ideology.
“We will work through our process around this now, and will be aiming to complete our review as soon as practicable, taking into account the likely need to hear from representatives of key interested communities,” David Shanks added.
This commercial movie that contains sensitive political theme, has come under severe criticism from various quarters in India for ‘overwhelming support of government’ and some see it as a ‘political propaganda’.
Screening of this film has also resulted in instances of use of provocative language and abuses against a minority community on social media.
Some people to whom NewsViews spoke were generally against screening of this film in New Zealand as it was likely to stir up emotions and could cause a rift between communities in this otherwise peaceful country.
“It doesn’t really matter even if the NZ Censor decides to ban this film, people will still watch it somehow -sooner or later,” commented one who did not wish to be named.
All eyes would now be on the NZ Classifications Office to watch what their decision ultimately would be – to release the film under a different classification or to stop it from being screened altogether.