Protest against the withdrawal of National Award for documentary on Silent Valley sign now


The documentary on the struggle to save Silent Valley rain forests in Kerala, "Only An Axe Away" directed by P. Baburaj and C. Saratchandran was adjudged by the Jury of Non-Feature Film section of the 52nd National Award on 13th July as the Best Educational, Instructional and Motivational film for 2004. In the Jury citation the Jury mentioned the following:

"The award for the Best Educational/Motivational/Instructional Film is given to Only An Axe Away. This documentary has ventured to narrate the history of the unique campaign to save the silent valley from destructive development in a very distinct informative style".

The above citation is taken from a press release issued by the Press Information Bureau Circular (16:39 IST) which was also available in the Directorate of Film Festival web site till third week of July. It was available in jansamachar.net a web magazine. It was reported in the Malayala Manorama Daily, Pune edition of the Decan Herad and other News Papers and TV Channels.

But after about two weeks this award announcement has vanished mysteriously from PIB and DFF website and instead say that NO AWARD GIVEN in this category. This is heart breaking news for all of us who are involved in documentary film making for the last several years. The National Film Awards still remain one of the very few institutions, which is at least theoretically committed to recognizing excellence in documentary filmmaking. That is why everyone related to this documentary greeted the news of the award with happiness and satisfaction.

In contrast to a huge money minting entertainment film industry, documentary films receive scant encouragement or support in this country. The work done by the documentary film makers who struggle to produce works that strive to study, document and spread awareness about issues that affect the public community without any commercial or monetary benefit is rarely appreciated. But still many of them continue to work in this field out of their commitment to issues and their firm belief in the value of this work. But the state institutions set up with the aim of promoting works of excellence, like the Directorate of Film Festival often fail to consider documentary film making as of any serious importance. The cursory manner in which the case of Baburajs and Saratchandrans film was removed from the awards list after even the award citations were published, is one more example of how these poor relatives are treated. Imagine what a fuss would have been created if a similar vanishing of an award happened in the best feature film or best actor category! The incident seriously questions the credibility of the National Film Awards and the manner in which Jury decisions are taken. Furthermore it is a setback to the morale of all documentary filmmakers and others who are concerned about social issues in the country.

We, strongly protest against the manner in which the award for Only an Axe Away was withdrawn. We demand an enquiry into the circumstances in which this happened, and that until the facts are brought to light and those who are behind this are held responsible, the distribution of the awards for the non-feature film section be withheld.

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Maude CarrilloBy:
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Petition target:
Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India

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