The recent controversies surrounding the State Film Award for best documentary is merely a byproduct of technological transition. While the Chalachitra Academy insists that the attempt is to promote ‘serious film-making’, documentary film-makers in the state pooh-pooh the tall claim.
The current situation regarding documentary film awards is similar to last year’s situation after Salim Kumar came up with a complaint that the documentary he produced, ‘Pokkali’, was omitted by the State Film Award jury.
Recently, the state government had made some changes in the guidelines of the State Film Awards including the format as the number of films made and released in digital format increased.
The new guideline clearly states, “Films made in Malayalam language shot in film format or digital format but released on either film format or digital format are eligible for feature-film and children’s film section.”
But regarding documentaries, it says, “Films made in Malayalam or in any language on subjects relating to Kerala and shot in film format with certification of Censor Board of Film Certification as documentary are eligible for documentary section.” But according to the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy (KSCA), the clause was deliberately included by the state government to benefit film-makers who opt for the film format.
“The state government is giving another set of awards in the short film category in the Kerala State TV Awards and International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala too. There could be a duplication in the awards of the same body if documentaries made in digital format are included in the state film awards. The scene is different in the national arena as there is only one award there,” said a KSCA official.
However, documentary film-makers term this regulation as ‘absurd’. “The KSCA is ignorant of the changes happening outside. Most of the serious documentary makers in the world have switched to digital format as it offers more freedom in both creativity and finance. Even in the National Awards, the distinction is only between feature and non-feature sections,” says award-winning documentary film-maker K R Manoj.
Though his film ‘Pestering Journey’ received the 2010 National Award, at the state-level it could only bag television awards as it was shot in a digital format. Manoj said that documentary makers will meet the minister and Academy chairman regarding this discrimination.