KARACHI, Pakistan, Oct 1, (RTRS): Pakistani cinemas have stopped screening Indian films in “solidarity” with the country’s armed forces, after an escalation of violence in disputed Kashmir between the nuclear-armed neighbours, theatre owners said on Friday.
Tension between India and Pakistan has been high since an Indian security forces crackdown on dissent in Indian-controlled Kashmir began in July. Relations worsened in September after militants killed 18 soldiers in a raid on an Indian army base, an attack New Delhi blames on Pakistan.
“We have stopped screening Indian movies at our cinemas from Friday till the situation improves and normalcy returns”, said Nadeem Mandviwalla, whose Mandviwalla Entertainment runs eight cinemas in Karachi and the capital, Islamabad.
India said on Thursday it had carried out “surgical strikes” in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, a claim that Pakistan condemned and denied.
The Indian Motion Picture Producers’ Association (IMPPA), a small filmmakers’ body, on Thursday banned their members from hiring Pakistani actors. Mandviwalla and other cinema owners said the ban in Pakistan was also in response to IMPPA’s move.
Indian media reported that a leader of regional right-wing party, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, last week gave Pakistani actors 48 hours to leave India or faced being “pushed out”.
The party, which was not available for comment, is one of two hardline parties based in Mumbai that has regularly called for Pakistani artists to be banned from working in India. Indian films are spectacularly popular both at the cinema and on bootlegged DVDs in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s domestic film industry has seen a revival in recent years, but is dwarfed by India’s Bollywood. Pakistani actors have increasingly been appearing in big budget Bollywood films in the last few years.
Some Indian actors came to the defence of their Pakistani counterparts.
“They are artists. These are two different subjects. They were terrorists, these are artists. What do you think, artists are terrorists?” Salman Khan, one of Bollywood’s biggest stars, told reporters when asked if Pakistani actors should be forced out.
Khurram Gultasab, general manager at Super Cinemas, which runs ten cinemas in cities across Pakistan’s Punjab province, confirmed his group would also not be screening Indian films.
“I think we should show solidarity with our army engaged at very hot borders right now and secondly with our actors”, said Gultasab. He said the move had been made by cinema owners themselves, rather than on government directions.
Other Pakistani cinemas posted on social media saying they would not be showing Indian films after Thursday’s violence.
The under-representation of racial and ethnic diversity across the film industry has been a hotly debated topic this past year. This pressing issue is now set to take center stage at the 60th annual British Film Institute London Film Festival, which runs Oct 5-16.
This year’s hot ticket will be the Black Star Diversity Symposium, led by actor David Oyelowo, which opens the festival’s industry program on Oct 6. The symposium has a specific focus on on-screen representation of the black community. The event aims to bring together actors, filmmakers, and industry leaders to discuss why opportunities for blacks remain limited and what can be done to effect positive change.
“The festival program has wonderful films from BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) filmmakers, and, with issues surrounding diversity magnified by social media, I think this is a moment on which we can really capitalize”, says Ashley Clark, programmer of the BFI’s Black Star season, which celebrates black actors and follows the LFF. “But we have to recognize that the work is never done. It needs investment, mentoring and honest conversation”.
Clark highlights the fact that since Horace Ove made “Pressure” in 1976, widely regarded as the first black British film, only one black British filmmaker has made more than three theatrically released features: Noel Clarke, who will also take part in the symposium.
Many filmmakers and actors have spoken about the importance of people from all communities being able to see the world as they recognize it on screen.
“We live in a culturally diverse world, and that is not reflected in our work to the extent it should be”, says Ben Roberts, director of the BFI Film Fund. Roberts has recently been involved in the BFI’s extensive consultation with the industry and public to inform its future strategy for supporting and promoting film and television.
“Diversity and inclusion came up frequently as an imperative where the industry realizes it can be achieving more than it has”, he says.
“The next step is that everybody moves beyond just finding a single story with visible black actors and themes, so they can feel black audiences are being represented”, says Roberts. “We need to impact development of material over the longer term”.
“We have to engage with schools and colleges to ensure people know what opportunities there are”, says Jon Wardle, deputy director of the UK’s National Film and Television School. “We work with the BFI Film Academy where we can encourage a diverse range of young talent and then benefit on intake for the NFTS at post-graduation level”.