[Reader-list] When the Lights Went Out - A Film Festival on Free Speech and Censorship at NLSIU Bangalore

Raman Chima ramanchima at gmail.com
Fri Apr 25 22:53:33 IST 2008

When the Lights Went Out (May 17th and 18th, National Law School of
India University, Bangalore)

When the Lights Went Out is the Annual Film Festival of Law and
Society Committee of the National Law School of India University
(NLSIU) on socio-legal affairs. 2008-09 will see the first edition of
this film festival with a short-film making competition on the theme,
"Freedom of Speech and Censorship". This year's Competition will be
called "Blank Reel". There will be a workshop involving movie
screenings, talks, discussions, interactive sessions providing
filmmakers, film lovers and people from civil society come together on
a platform to assess the positive impact that films can have on our

The theme this year: Freedom of Speech and Censorship

Freedom of speech supposedly represents the cornerstone of modern
liberal democratic political systems. However, what place does it
really have in the world? Enshrined as a Fundamental Right under
Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, freedom of speech in India in
embroiled in rather curious frames of discourse more apparently
concerned with its "reasonable" regulation than with its actual
substantive worth. Somehow clearly surviving the transformation of the
Indian State from the British Raj to our (theoretically)
constitutional Republic, the regulation of how speech and expression
takes place in the public sphere in India is something strangely not
well understood. What value do we really place on freedom of speech
and expression? Do we really believe in any intrinsic value of freedom
of speech, or is it merely something that has worth with respect to
the established political system?

The situation is not very different in other countries. While freedom
of speech and expression get curtailed on numerous occasions; often
very flimsy reasons are given for such curtailment of an important
right. Is there an inherent right of freedom of speech and expression
and if there is then how important is this right? Is it up to
governments to curtail these rights or is there something so
inherently fundamental that these rights exist despite borders and
difference in laws?
Is the measure of a society truly related to the extent to which it is
willing to tolerate even that speech which it considers offensive and
disturbing? Hate speech, public order, and national security among
others comprise the somewhat surprisingly nebulous categories of
exceptions that appear to justify the curtailing of our right of
freedom of speech and expression from interference by the State.

The films and discussions that this festival will explore will look at
the tensions concerning freedom of speech and expression in India and
elsewhere. These issues extend to, but are not limited to exploring
the tensions that have arisen concerning freedom of speech and
cultural/moral policing, the pervasive reach of the State, or even the
very manner in which we choose to conceive what freedom of speech
means to us at a basic level.

Thus we see this festival as comprising of three separate aspects all
revolving around this theme:
A short filmmaking competition
A series of documentary screenings
Interactive discussion sessions and lectures.

The Film Making Competition (Blank Reel):

The short-film making competition is open to all students from India
and abroad enrolled either in schools or in undergraduate programs.
Original entries are invited on the theme described above. The
discussion of theme is not exhaustive and entrants are encouraged to
come up with interesting and innovative subjects for their movies. The
duration of the movies is 10 minutes or less. It can be in the form of
a documentary or on a purely fictional subject. Animated entries are
also allowed.

Besides that entrants can also enter their films for the "Moments"
award. To be eligible for this award, the duration of the movie should
be two minutes or less. The film can deal with any social problem and
should have a social message to deliver in the end. The entrants are
encouraged to come up with original ideas and deliver these social
messages through interesting visual imagery or good use of sound
effects. The films in this category should be eye-catching and unique
to make an impression on the minds of the viewers in such a short span
of time.  Note that this does not have to relate to the theme.

There will be first and second cash prize awarded for the "Blank Reel"
category. The best entry in the Moments category will also be awarded
a cash prize. Certificates will be given to all participants.
Selected entries will be screened on both days of the event. The
participants will be informed beforehand if their movies are being
screened. If desired, panels may also be set up to discuss these

Selection Process:
There will be a screening process and only short-listed entries will
be screened at the festival. The crew of the selected entries will be
informed as to the fact of their selection by e-mail. The
short-listing will be done by a panel of judges drawn from the
discipline of films and civil society. The winner of the final award
would be decided after the screening has taken place for general
public and the winners will be decided by a different panel;
constituting of big names from the discipline of films. In case of any
dispute the decision of the Law and Society Committee will be final.

The event will be held over a period of two days, 17th and 18th May.
Each day will have two sessions. Each session will comprise of some
movies in the competitive category, non-competitive
documentaries/fictional movies relevant to the theme and a panel
discussion on the movies screened and the issues therein. The event
will provide entrants with a unique opportunity for showcasing their
talent in front of an audience and also eminent personalities from the
world of cinema. The venue for the screenings, discussions, lectures
etc. is tentatively scheduled to be held at Alliance Francaise de

All entries should be in format that allows it to be played on a DVD
player. Three copies of the DVD must be sent. Entrants can send in
their movies for both categories of awards but multiple entries in the
same category are not allowed. The movies can be in any language.
Entries in languages other than English should carry English
subtitles. The entries have to be received latest by 7 p.m. 13th May,
2008 at the NLSIU campus. The entries can be submitted by
hand/post/courier. The entries should be addressed to "When the Lights
went out", Law and Society Committee, National Law School of India
University, Nagarbhavi, Bangalore – 560072. The entries should be
clearly marked as "Blank Reel" or "Moments" depending upon the
category into which they are being entered.  The Law and Society
Committee will not be responsible for any loss of entries or any
damage caused to them when sent by post or courier.
All entries should be accompanied by a certificate declaring the names
and addresses and respective contributions to the movie of the entire
crew involved with the production of the film and that they are
enrolled in any school or undergraduate program in India. Entries
without this certificate will be disqualified. If at any stage of the
competition or after the awards are given out, it is found that any or
all of the members of the crew of the film do not satisfy the
eligibility criteria, the entry will be disqualified. The entry should
also be accompanied with the e-mail address and the phone number of
one contact person. Once the entry is received in the proper form, an
email will be sent by the Committee, acknowledging receipt.
The entrants are also advised to send in a short description of their
movie and preferably a poster of their movie which can be used for
publicity purposes. Note: This is not mandatory, however the Law and
Society Committee can at any point of time write a short description
of the movie and use snapshots from the movie for publicity purposes.

The Law and Society Committee will be free to use the entries for
spreading awareness or for purely academic purposes, but not for
commercial purposes. The participants will be duly acknowledged in
case of such use.

Any change in the rules is at the discretion of the Law and Society
Committee. The decision of the Committee in case of any dispute will
be final and binding.

Note: More information about the competition, prizes, the movies to be
screened at the festival, the speakers and the judges will be made
available shortly on the National Law School website. www.nls.ac.in
For any information/clarifications contact (0) 9886524208 or send in
an email to lawandsociety at nls.ac.in with a subject titled
clarifications – "When the Lights Went Out".

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