Censorship and Film Festivals

We often hear about movies that are considered either too extreme or have topics that are controversial for the country that they are being made in that they cannot be shown in the country that they are made in, So often Film makers would send out these films to film festivals all around the world with the hopes of getting their work known to the public.

But with film festivals becoming more and more funded by governments, just how much of an impact can censorship have on a film festival? Today we shall examine 2 different cases of censorship within film festivals and see what were the responses that were given as a result.

The first one is the Busan International Film Festival and a movie called The Diving Bell. When the movie was shown, the South Korean Government heavily opposed the release of this film in BIFF, resulting in them cutting their funding of the event from 1.7 million to $963,000.

In retaliation, 9 independent South Korean film organisations formed a coalition and boycotted the event until changes were made that returned creative freedom to BIFF and loosened censorship in the event.

The second event happened at the Istanbul Film festival and when it removed Bakur, a movie about the camps of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, from it’s schedule just hours before it was able to premier. According to official reports, the film had failed to meet the requirements needed to be screened in Istanbul.

However film makers accused the Turkish Ministry of unlawful censorship and as a result, over 100 film makers published an open letter to the Turkish Ministry accusing them of Oppression and Censorship while 23 Turkish Film makers withdrew their films in response, resulting in the closing ceremony of the Istanbul Film festival being cancelled.

From this example, there are two things that come into mind when we look at to how censorship can affect a film festivals. The first and most important part of a film festival is funding. Since more and more film festivals are becoming state funded, the pressure to not only release films that suit the interests of the state while allowing films that express creative freedom has made it difficult for film festivals to remain in the middle.

The second issue is how it can compromise the film maker’s vision. Should they produce works that would be allowed into a film festival but don’t touch on important issues? Or should they just release films that are controversial in nature but they are passionate about and risk not being able to show it to any film festivals due to the controversy that surrounds them?

These are important questions that we must ask right now for the future of film festivals. Will we see film festivals created in the future that show these controversial works or will we see film festivals become censorship boards, censoring films themselves in order to maintain the funding they have from either the government or outside sponsorships?





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