Explained: Several Indian film bodies will now be part of the NFDC ‘umbrella’

On March 30, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) notified the transfer the mandate of producing documentaries and short films, organizing film festivals and preserving films to the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) Ltd., a PAU under the ministry.

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The government has allocated a budget allocation of Rs 1,304.52 crore till 2026 for all these activities under the NFDC. Revenues generated from these activities, such as the production of documentaries, hitherto non-profit, will also accrue to the NFDC.

The announcement had been expected since December 2020, when the Union Cabinet approved the merger of four of its film media units – Films Division (FD), Film Festivals Directorate (DFF), National Film Archives of India (NFAI) and Children’s Film Society, India (CFSI) with NFDC.

“The merger of the film media units into a single company will result in a convergence of activities and resources and better coordination, thereby ensuring synergy and efficiency in carrying out the mandate of each media unit,” the government said in a statement. communicated on December 23, 2020.

Roles of film media organizations

FD: The largest repository of moving pictures and audiovisual documents in the history of India was established in 1948 to create public service awareness films, to film the process of decolonization and nation building , and to produce and distribute newsreels and documentaries. Colonial agencies such as the Film Advisory Board, Information Films of India, Indian News Parade and Army Film and Photographic Unit were entrusted to him.

FD now boasts over 8,000 news, documentaries, shorts and animated films about historical events and political figures, including “rare works by stalwarts like Satyajit Ray, MF Husain, Mani Kaul, Pramod Pati, etc.”, award-winning filmmaker at the National. Shilpi Gulati wrote in The Indian Express last month.

FD employees will now report to NFDC’s new production vertical, which will retain the Films division’s brand name. “FD’s brand name is retained to monetize its legacy,” an FD employee said. “But there is no clarity on how long we will work with NFDC.”

CFSI: Established in 1955, it was responsible for producing children’s films and value-based entertainment, also for underprivileged children, in small towns and rural areas.

NFAI: Established in 1964 under the leadership of renowned curator PK Nair, it was tasked with tracing, acquiring and preserving the heritage of fictional cinema in India. NFAI is a repository of “thousands of films, books, scripts, posters, photographs dating back to the 1910s, and actively promotes film research and scholarship on Indian and South Asian cinema,” Gulati wrote.

DFF: It was established in 1973 and is responsible for cultural exchange, promotion of Indian cinema worldwide, organization of National Film Awards and Dadasaheb Phalke Awards, Mumbai International Film Festival and International Film Festival of India in Goa. All of this will now be part of NFDC’s mandate as part of its vertical promotion, to which DFF employees will be attached on a temporary basis.

NFDC: A PSU created in 1975, its former avatar was the Film Finance Corporation. His job was to finance, produce and distribute feature films and promote filmmakers outside of the general public. It has made notable contributions to parallel cinema, but has been unable in recent times to provide exposure infrastructure for independent filmmakers. Through its Film Bazaar Work-in-Progress (WIP) lab, NFDC provided a platform for young talent to interact and learn.

The PSU was declared a loss-making asset by NITI Aayog in 2018, and its closure was proposed in Parliament. With the other bodies now merged into the NFDC, it is now the “umbrella organization”.

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Opposition to merger

A recently formed group ran a social media campaign, “Kay Karto Bey”, to protest the alleged lack of transparency and accountability, and the arbitrary way in which the process was conducted. Employees and independent filmmakers and documentarians have expressed their apprehension about their future, as well as that of archive footage, which they want to see declared national heritage.

The announcement of the mandate transfer came days after protest sit-ins at the recent Kerala International Film Festival, where at seminars national award-winning filmmakers expressed their anguish. Adoor Gopalakrishnan said, “Don’t kill film institutions by merging them with a moribund body like the NFDC,” adding, “Archives are a very expensive business, the responsibility of the government, not just any company. … They were talking about institutions making losses as if it were a business. They have no idea what archives are. Not only this government, any government tries to deceive people.

About Debra D. Johnson

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