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Public institutes will be useless if they become elitist spaces, says Cannes winner Payal Kapadia

Kapadia, who charted history by becoming the first Indian filmmaker to win the Grand Prix award for "All We Imagine as Light".

Public institutes will be useless if they become elitist spaces, says Cannes winner Payal Kapadia

Payal Kapadia (IANS)

NEW DELHI: Public institutes will be useless to the nation if they are turned into "elitist" spaces, says filmmaker Payal Kapadia, while also advocating for a tax on big budget movies to create a fund to foster independent filmmaking.

Kapadia, who charted history by becoming the first Indian filmmaker to win the Grand Prix award for "All We Imagine as Light", on Friday posted a lengthy statement on Facebook where she shared her thoughts on a range of topics and issues.

An alumnus of Pune-based Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), the filmmaker said public institutes should always be accessible to everyone.

"Unfortunately, public institutes are becoming more and more expensive nowadays. These spaces can only remain relevant and can encourage discourse if it remains accessible to all. If it becomes an elitist space like various public universities have become over many years, it will be useless to the nation (sic)," Kapadia wrote.

"There are many private institutions that are made only to maintain the status quo and give opportunities to the elite. A space like FTII is somewhere in between at this point in time. We should strive for it to be even more accessible," she added.

The director also stressed that there is "significant need" for raising the quality of education at primary education level.

Kapadia, whose mother is prominent painter Nalini Malani, said though she comes from a privileged background, there were many challenges faced by women in her family. They were aided in choosing their professions by having access to prestigious institutions like the JJ School of Art and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

"For me, the greatest learning was being at the Film and television Institute of India (FTIl) where I was a student for five years. FTII was a space where we could not only formulate our thoughts about filmmaking but also about the world we inhabit. Filmmaking does not exist in a vacuum. It is through debates and discussions, questions and self reflection that we move closer to the films we choose to make," she said, adding that the institute encourages independent thinking and diversity.

In 2015, Kapadia was one of the protesting students who went on strike to oppose actor Gajendra Chauhan's appointment as the chairperson of the FTII.

She said the students at the premier film institute didn't always agree with each other but they learned a lot from their differences.

"Affordable public education has been instrumental in making this possible. And it is not just FTIl. If we look at films being made in our country, you will always find someone in the crew who went to a public institute - Jamia, JNU, HCU, SRFTI, KR Narayanan, just to name a few," she added.

At Cannes, "All We Imagine As Light" was the first Indian film in 30 years and first ever by an Indian female director to be showcased in main competition, last being Shaji N Karun's "Swaham" (1994).

The filmmaker recalled that many asked her why it took three decades for an Indian film to make it to the official line-up, a question she also posed to the selection committee.

"We should ask ourselves this as well. Why can we not support more independent filmmakers?" she asked, while crediting the French Public funding system that helped her make the movie.

Kapadia's film is an Indo-French co-production between Petit Chaos from France and Chalk and Cheese Films from India. The other co-producers are Arte France Cinéma, Baldr Film, Another Birth, Les Films Fauves and Pulpa Film.

"In France, a small tax is levied on each and every ticket sale of a film as well as a tax levied on TV channels. From this the CNC fund is created that allows independent producers and directors to apply for funding."

She revealed that distributors and exhibitors can get funding to distribute films once they are complete.

Though she believes that charging audiences a tax would be "unfair", Kapadia batted for a tax on the profits made on "blockbuster films", saying that it will help in creating an independent film fund.

"If such a system was made in our country with an autonomous body to run the fund, it would only encourage more and more independent filmmaking. For a democracy to thrive, voices need to remain independent from big studios that are run by rich industrialists."

Kapadia praised the Kerala government for starting a similar kind of fund that "supports female filmmakers as well as filmmakers from under-represented castes".

"I think this is the need of the hour. I know that a lot of well-meaning individuals in the film industry have started their own production houses. But they only support filmmakers they know.

"There should be some autonomous system with representation that could give opportunities to filmmakers even if they know no one in the film industry," she added.

Governments should only be involved as facilitators in the funding process, Kapadia said.

She also thanked people from the Kerala film industry, whose "many well established actors and producers" lent their support to "All We Imagine As Light".

"In Kerala, even distributors and exhibitors are open to show more art house films. Audiences are open to watch different kinds of movies. We live in a country where we are lucky to have so many cinemas. We should accept that many different kinds of films can exist together."

As the election results are around the corner, Kapadia hopes that the new government will work towards a "more equal society where every individual has the right to our country's resources and that they are not limited to the hands of a few".

"The resources are also non material, like cultural capital, like education and access to the arts. As citizens of the country it is our responsibility to hold every government accountable for this," she said.

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