Banned documentary looks at India’s Gujarat riots

Indian documentary filmmaker Rakesh Sharma will visit York Sunday for a special screening of Final Solution, his controversial film about genocidal violence in Gujarat, India between February 2002 and July 2003.

shamaThe film, which was refused entry to India’s national film awards by the Central Board of Film Certification (CFBC), graphically documents the changing face of right-wing politics in India through a study of violence against Muslims. It examines the aftermath of the deadly violence that followed the burning of 58 Hindus on the Sabarmati Express train at Godhra on Feb. 27, 2002. In “reaction” to that incident, some 2,500 Muslims were brutally murdered, hundreds of women raped and more than 200,000 families driven from their homes.

Right: Rakesh Sharma

The screening, which is open to the public and begins at 3pm in the Senior Common Room, 305 Founders College, is organized by York’s South Asian Studies Program, Division of Social Science, Faculty of Arts, and the York Centre for Asian Research.

Final Solution won awards for Best Documentary and Critic’s Choice at the 2004 Hong Kong International Film Festival. It also won the Wolfgang Staudte and Special Jury awards at the Berlin International Film and captured a Silver Dhow Prize at the Zanzibar International Film Festival.

train burningLeft: Train burning at Godhra, India, 2002

Rejected by the recently concluded Mumbai International Film Festival, Final Solution was screened at Vikalp: Films for Freedom, a parallel festival organized by the Campaign Against Censorship. Sharma has been an active member of the campaign, which has seen dozens of Indian film makers boycott the national awards, since the campaign’s inception in 2003.

In India, films can be publicly exhibited only after certification by the CBFC, which was set up in 1952. In a letter to the board, Indian film producers challenged a ruling that “the film promotes communal disharmony among Hindu and Muslim groups and presents the picture of Gujarat riots in a way that it may arouse the communal feelings and clashes among Hindu Muslim groups.”

scene photoJudges at the Berlin Film Festival complimented the film for “its clarification of issues that spawned hate and violence between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat, its analysis of propaganda mechanisms for political purposes, and its measured voice to seek a final solution to the conflict.”

Left: Scene from Final Solution

Rakesh Sharma began his film and TV career in 1986 as an assistant director on Shyam Benegal’s Discovery of India. His broadcast industry experience includes the set-up and launch of three broadcast channels in India and several production consultancy assignments.