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Interview Malayalam

It is important to distance perpetrators: Oxfam jury member, director Anjali Menon on films being dropped

The director, who is also a member of the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC), clarified that while not everything is 'black and white', the decision to distance accused or perpetrators of sexual harassment is welcome. 

Shriram Iyengar

One of the casualties of the #MeToo movement is its effect on several films and projects being dropped or stalled due to their association with people accused of sexual harassment. The 20th Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival also dropped several films on their lineup, as well as from those nominated for the Oxfam Best Film on Gender Equality award, in solidarity with the survivors.

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This has not gone down well, with some collaborators on these projects complaining of unfair treatment. However, jury member and director Anjali Menon believes that such a step is necessary to provide the survivors with a space to speak.

Speaking to Cinestaan.com over the phone, Menon logically stated that while such a decision is difficult, it is necessary.

Among the films dropped is Ere Gowda's debut feature, Balekempa, which was also nominated for the Oxfam Best Film on Gender Equality award.

Menon, who also spoke on the panel about #MeToo: The Power Of the Collective at the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival on 30 October, agreed with the decision of several filmmakers and associations in Mumbai to distance themselves from working with members accused of sexual assault and harassment. She said the decision was welcome, although difficult.

A member of the Oxfam award jury, Menon said, "It is a very difficult time. You have to understand, many of these individuals are people we have worked with closely, interacted with them closely. To ostracise them overnight and dissociate from them is not the easiest task."

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She added, "For instance, if there is a particular piece of work in which one of the collaborators is accused, suddenly we are at a situation where...what happens to the work of the other contributors? What is the worth of that? These are very difficult questions which have very difficult answers as well... When people are taking certain positions, I am sure they have their own justifications. But this is not an era of black and white."  

However, the Koode (2018) director demurred from stating that it was an extreme measure to dissociate themselves with films related to people accused of sexual harassment.

She explained, "I think the whole idea of solidarity with someone who has survived this trauma is very important. If an act like this protects that person, and kind of gives that person a space to speak, as part of that if we have to distance ourselves, then it is perfectly right."

As part of the WCC, Menon has been among a prominent group of women filmmakers who are forcing the Association of Malayalam Movie Actors (AMMA) to ensure compliance with the POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act) and to prevent the re-admission of actor Dileep (one of the accused in a case of the abduction and assault of an actress in the Malayalam industry) in the association.

During the conversation at MAMI on 30 October, Menon had stated that "it is important to make the intent clear".

She repeated that in the conversation with us stating, "I would definitely say that. It is very very important when you are aware of somebody exploiting someone else, and you continue to work with them. Then, that is rubbish. That is not done."

Related topics

MAMI Sexual harassment