Various political and cultural opinions have dominated social media, following Kerala Culture Minister AK Balan’s announcement regarding the International Film Festival of Kerala. The state had decided to organise IFFK in four zones from February 10, in four different dates. This has invited the criticism of regionalists who believe that IFFK gets its identity from Thiruvananthapuram.
In a Facebook post, Thiruvananthapuram-based MLA Sabarinadhan KS urged the state government to re-examine their decision. “World’s iconic festivals — Berlin, Venice, and Cannes — are defined by their geographical identities. Thiruvananthapuram has gained a prominent position in the international film world through the IFFK. The best-in-class theatres and availability of all essential facilities in Thiruvananthapuram are the foundation of IFFK’s success,” he says in the post.
“It is unfortunate that we have removed the festival fully from Thiruvananthapuram and is organising it in four zones. This will damage the brand that is ‘Thiruvananthapuram’ that we have been developing for 25 years in the international community,” he added. However, many had come forward against this claim and claimed that Sabarinadhan “was not thinking straight”. They claimed that the splitting of the venues had been to curb the spread of Covid-19 since the multiple locations will limit the number of people at a single location.
However, others have come forward and claimed that the use of multiple locations is a political move to take IFFK away from Thiruvananthapuram and place it somewhere else. They claim that despite multiple venues, the nature of the virus remains the same and it won’t curb the spread. Moreover, with theatres opening, the state could get more than five theatres, extend the dates and timings to organise the event comfortably in just the state capital. Moreover, certain groups had alleged that Festival Director Kamal was trying to make Ernakulam a permanent venue, but there is no evidence to point out that. This same conspiracy was also extended to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
In his Facebook post, Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor said, “Thiruvananthapuram offers IFFK not just a great venue, but tradition, facilities and above all a passionate population of knowledgeable cinephiles. It’s where Senegalese films attract sold-out crowds and Kim Ki Duk was mobbed in the street.” He had shared a post citing Vijayan’s social media claim made on October 17, 2016. The post alludes to a possible move from the government to take the event away from Thiruvananthapuram, in the guise of “extending the event to a larger audience” and “shortening the gap between people and art”. Tharoor termed it “deplorable”.
Meanwhile, social media is abuzz with posts defending and criticising the state’s move to organise IFFK at multiple places. While the state says that it is only for a year considering the Covid pandemic, many believe that it is better to cancel the event than take it away from Thiruvananthapuram. The debate isn’t surprising as it takes precedence every year right before the festival begins.