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Who decides the quality of a movie?

Published Oct 14, 2015, 1:10 pm IST
Updated Mar 27, 2019, 12:01 pm IST
Dr Biju’s and R.S. Vimal’s films shunned from the competition section of the IFFK
This is not to create any kind of controversy, Dr Biju stresses at the end of his long post on Facebook. Less than two months away from the 20th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), the first round of disappointments seems to have surfaced with the announcement of the Malayalam movies chosen for the ‘Competition’ and ‘Malayalam Cinema Today’ categories. 
Dr Biju’s film Valiya Chirakulla Pakshikal has been put under the latter and he wonders about the selection of commercial entertainers for the festival. The question becomes louder now after one director has withdrawn his film from the festival as it was not chosen for the competition. R.S. Vimal has pulled Ennu Ninte Moideen out of the IFFK.
“It is a universal subject. And Moideen, I wished, had competed from Kerala among world cinema. It is in the belief that it would be taken for competition that I submitted the film at the IFFK. If I had known it earlier that it would be put under Malayalam Cinema Today, I would not have given it. I was shocked and have sent an email to withdraw the film from the festival,” Vimal says.
Who decides what a commercial entertainer is and what is not. “I don’t know that. The shortcoming of my film seems to be that it was a crowd-puller. People had gone to theatres repeatedly to see it. Only last day I had a woman call me and cry, about a man who left her 12 years ago, whom she still loves. It is 12 years later that she goes to a theatre to see a film — Moideen — and she calls me, an absolute stranger, to pour out her heart.” Vimal says that is the kind of influence the film has.
Dr Biju doesn’t specify any movie names in his long rhetoric. Neither does he plan any protest moves like Vimal, to take his movie away from the fest. He merely observes that this is the sixth time that a movie he made is chosen for the ‘Malayalam Cinema Today’ category and not given a place in the ‘Competition’ section. He even jokes: “Maybe this will be a record.” But he goes on to write that his movies have been chosen for several popular film festivals across the world in the competition section, and yet only have the quality to stand outside the competition of the film festival in Kerala. 
“I didn’t ask anyone. Maybe the jury felt it is not worthy to be in competition. When we submit a film for the festival, we agree that the jury will decide what category it should be put into, so I accept the decision,” he says, when asked about the post. Another director who has shared Biju’s post is Sanal Kumar Sasidharan whose film Ozhivu Divasathe Kali has also been selected in the Malayalam Cinema Today category of the IFFK. He agrees with Biju’s view that a festival may not be the space for crowd-puller movies. “I feel there is no clear idea on the part of the jury or the makers of crowd-puller movies on what qualifies to be screened at the festival. They think it should be a mix of all contemporary Malayalam films, so there will be two of the crowd-pullers, and two with artistic value. But my idea is that the films included should be ones that can help take Malayalam cinema forward,” he says. On Vimal pulling out of the fest, Sanal says, it is a big blow to the jury.
IFFK director Shaji N. Karun says it is up to the jury to decide which films qualify and which don’t. “Why do we need a jury? They are esteemed people of a senior level who know movies from all over the world. We trust the jury.” When asked about the selection of commercial successes in the fest, he asks, “It is not about commercial success but content. What do you call an Oscar-winning movie like Birdman? A commercial film or a good film? A good film,” he sums up.