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2 May 2004
The Indian film fraternity ought to register a protest with the censors running the Singapore International Film Festival, who last week dropped a documentary on Tibet, Destiny’s Children, at the last minute. No explanation was given to the director, Pimmi Pande, but she suspects that the censors were afraid her documentary might offend the Chinese who make up a majority of Singapore’s population.
Now, I happen to have seen the film since Pimmi and her father, the Bombay filmmaker Vinod Pande, happen to be good friends of mine. Destiny’s Children, which carries interviews with Tibetans in Dharamshala with a little footage from inside Tibet of Chinese soldiers beating up locals, is a thoughtful film that deserves an international audience. It reflects the views of some angry young Tibetans, who talk about becoming suicide bombers at the Olympics in Beijing, but in the end most viewers will be convinced by the Dalai Lama’s commitment to non-violence, which he has pursued since he was given exile in 1959.
British-born Pimmi, who now lives in London, is bitterly disappointed at the final hour axing of her film, especially as the Singapore festival organisers had asked for the documentary in the first place after being impressed with it in Toronto. Pimmi has written to Lee Boon Yang, Singapore’s Minister of Information Communications and the Arts, urging him to defend freedom of expression. If he does not reinstate Pimmi’s film, Indian filmmakers should do soul searching on whether next year’s festival in Singapore will be worth supporting.