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Freedom of expression

On the offensive


ON A BENDER: 'Baise-moi', a French film, is about two young, marginalised women on a violent rampage

The 1975 Italian film Salo has been described by one critic as "essential to have seen but impossible to watch. " Set in Italy in 1944, the film, a modern adaptation of the Marquis de Sade's 120 Days of Sodom, is the story of youngsters who are abducted by a few fascists after the fall of Mussolini, held in a villa and sexually tortured. The filmmaker, Pier Paolo Pasolini, known for his controversial films, was murdered a few days before the release of Salo, leading fellow Italian filmmaker Michaelangelo Antonioni to remark that Pasolini was a "victim of his own characters. "
Salo is one of the five banned or controversial films that will be shown at the Osian's Cinefan Film Festival to be held in Delhi later this month, along with Emperor Tomato Ketchup (Japan), Baise-moi (France), This Is Not A Film (Iran) and Karma (India) as part of a section on 'Freedom of Expression'.
Perhaps the most controversial film after Salo is Emperor Tomato Ketchup (1971). It was made by Japanese filmmaker Shuji Terayama as a response to the death of author, playwright and film personality Yukio Mishima. Mishima killed himself ritually in public in 1970 and Terayama, interestingly, interpreted Mishima's excessive ways as symbols of an incestuous desire for his mother. "It argues that Japanese society is sexually repressed, " says Kaushik Bhaumik, deputy director of the festival.
While Baise-moi (2000) is about two young marginalised women who go on a rampage of sex and violence, This Is Not A Film (2011), a documentary, portrays the day-to-day life of Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi during house arrest as he waits for a verdict after being charged with propaganda against the state. "Baise-moi was the first film to be banned in France after 28 years, not so much because it was graphic in content but because it was antiauthority. It was released with a restricted rating but a section of the right wing in France succeeded in getting it banned, " says Bhaumik.
Panahi's This Is Not A Film, on the other hand, is a more restrained political statement that was filmed surreptitiously by a friend of the filmmaker and then smuggled in a cake to France to be screened at the film festival in Cannes.
The Indian film, Karma (1933), became infamous in its time for a four-minute long kissing scene - one of the longest in Indian films. The movie is the story of a queen (Devika Rani) falling in love with a neighbouring prince (Himanshu Rai) despite her father's disapproval. "Liplocks weren't uncommon in Indian films of that era, but this film was singled out for a lot of criticism from certain elements of the press which were connected to lumpen elements in the nationalist movement, " says Bhaumik. "The protests against the film were one of the reasons that led to an informal ban on kissing in Bollywood movies for a long period of time. "

The Osian Cinefan Film Festival will be held from July 27 to August 5 at Siri Fort Auditorium and Blue Frog, Delhi

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