Chief minister Mamata Banerjee and actress Shabana Azmi stressed on “unity in diversity” and the need to resist efforts that are made to curb freedom of expression today at the closing ceremony of 25th Kolkata International Film Festival at Nazrul Mancha today.

“We love freedom of expression. Without it we will lose the right to speak and move. Nowa- days this is very much required. In future with the help of all citizens we should uphold the Constitution and democratic rights,” said Miss Banerjee. She appreciated Azmi for her statements about freedom of expression and unity in diversity which she said is the essence of our country. We love all castes and creeds and feel that human beings are the pillars of life, she added.

Addressing the gathering, Azmi said that efforts to curb the freedom of expression should be resisted. “I was raised in a family that believed that art should be used as an instrument of social change. I believe cinema has the power to create a climate for change to occur. So artists must be given freedom of expression. “ The purpose of art is not only to create but to start conversations on subjects that are considered to be taboo by society,” she said, adding: “Cinema is a mirror to society. Any attempt to curb freedom of expression will be resisted and must be resisted.”

Reciting a few lines from a poem of her father Kaifi Azmi, Azmi said “try and stitch lips and you will find storms rise up when attempts are made to suffocate protests.” Hail cinema and hail freedom of expression, she added. “Today we hear of inclusiveness from the mouths of world leaders. But we in India know that our Constitution guarantees this as a matter of right. So it is a proud privilege for us that India celebrates her diversity and inclusiveness,” she said.

Stressing on the importance of freedom of expression and diversity in cinema, Azmi said: “Cinema is the focal point of diversity. As the world shrinks and becomes a global village it is important to recognise the cultures in their own paradigms, rather than setting up yardsticks imposed by the West on East. This becomes most evident from cinema. We can see that films have the power to open a window where we learn about other cultures. So cinema towers above other art forms.”

Azmi added that as these films are not mainstream films, they seriously need such financial aid. On the occasion, a video speech of actor Amitabh Bachchan, who could not attend the inaugural programme due to his poor health condition, was played. Bachchan spoke about the role of cinema in digital space and women forerunners in production and direction. During the award ceremony, trophies and cash awards were handed over under national and international categories.

The Golden Royal Bengal Tiger Award for best Indian documentary film was given to Abridged directed by Gaurav Puri, Golden Royal Bengal Tiger Award for best Indian short film was given to Summer Rhapsody directed by Shravan Katekaneni, NETPAC award for best film to The Goddess and the Hero directed by Aditya Kripalani, Special Jury Award in Indian Language Films category to Run Kalyaniproduced and directed by Geeta J, Hiralal Sen Memorial Award for best director in Indian Language Films category to Parcel, directed by Indrashis Acharya, Hiralal Sen Memorial Award for best film in Indian Language to Mai Ghat Crime No 103-2005, produced by Nikita Gupta and directed by Ananth Mahadevan.

“Special Jury Award: International Competition on Innovation in Moving Images” to Shpia E Ages (Aga’s House) directed by Lendita Zeqiraj, Golden Royal Bengal Tiger Award for Best Director for International Competition on ‘Innovation in Moving Images’ to Nabarvene Ptace (Painted Bird) directed by Vaclav Marhoul and the Golden Royal Bengal Tiger Award for Best Film for International Competition on ‘Innovation in Moving Images’ to La Llorona (The Weeping Women) produced and directed by Jayro Bustamante.

War movies draw huge crowd

At the 25th Kolkata International Film Festival which screened around 367 masterpieces on celluloid, movies on war became a huge draw. KIFF’s Silver Jubilee Year had on offer 214 feature films and 152 short and documentary films from 76 countries. The largest number of films screened at KIFF dealt with a wide variety of human emotions, socio-political subjects, self-conflicts and so on.

Cinephiles made a bee-line for all the KIFF venues though some of the films on war and victims of war stood out from the other movies, and had a larger draw. One of the hugely acclaimed films, The Tin Drum(1979), by German filmmaker Volker Schlöndorff remained an all time favourite of the cinema enthusiasts at the KIFF. The film with a child protagonist against the background of World War II, witnessed a large audience at Nandan.

Another film that received much appreciation was the Syrian film Women Run With The Wolves. The film highlighting the struggle of a woman against the background of a war in Iran was another favourite of the film lovers. However, the film The End Will Be Spectacular with a star cast of real life war victims not only received massive footfall but also created much curiosity among the viewers at its first international premiere at the 25th KIFF.

A cine lover, who is also a student of Calcutta University, said: “We do get opportunities to watch films on brighter sides of life. From Tollywood to Hollywood, we get to see movies on subjects like romance, homosexuality and other social subjects. However, films on the grim side of life are eye-openers.” Another filmgoer at Nandan added, “Situations of war in distant parts of the world are usually seen in the news. Hence, I turned up to watch the Syrian film which I heard had real life victims of war who were actually killed in the armed conflict.”