The Kashmir Files To Release in New Zealand After Reclassification Over Concerns
Initially, the movie was classified as R16 in New Zealand but a review was conducted after concerns were raised.
The Kashmir Files, the hotly-debated Indian film based on the 1990s exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits, has been reclassified in New Zealand and audiences aged 18 or older will be able to see it in cinemas next week, Chief Censor David Shanks said on Saturday, 26 March.
Initially, the movie was classified as R16 in New Zealand. However, after members of the Muslim community in the country raised concerns over it, a review was conducted.
Shanks said on Saturday that he had spent the whole week speaking to a range of community representatives, viewing the film and consulting with overseas classification offices.
“Members of the Muslim community I spoke to are genuinely concerned the film would negatively affect them and Hindu representatives felt strongly that the film showed an important part of their history."David Shanks, Chief Censor
The Decision To Reclassify 'The Kashmir Files'
Shanks noted that he watched the film and is satisfied that it does not promote extremism or violence in a way that would require it to be classified as objectionable (banned) in New Zealand.
However, he said that he had imposed an R18 restriction given the nature and intensity of the violence and cruelty depicted. This age restriction is consistent with what the film received in Australia and India.
Shanks clarified that his decision to revisit the classification of The Kashmir Files is independent without any improper or political influence.
His office will be providing information describing the reasons for their decision and the process to seek a review by the Film and Literature Board of Review.
'The Kashmir Files' Controversy in New Zealand
The controversy in New Zealand came to light when the director of the film, Vivek Agnihotri, claimed on Twitter that the country's censor board was being pressurised to ban the film in the country.
However, it was later reported that the censor board was not banning the film but was rather reviewing its classification due to concerns raised by the Muslim community.
The film was supposed to be released on 24 March. On 18 March, however, the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) wrote directly to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, claiming that the film promotes a false narrative, "most probably to make an impending genocide of Kashmiri Muslims acceptable and necessary."
On 21 March 2022, the High Commission of India wrote to the censor board opposing the review, and asserted that "an unnecessary controversy has been created in New Zealand during the weekend regarding the film and its planned release."
Is Age Restriction on the Movie Necessary?
Raising the age limit of the film was one of the recommendations stated by Joseph Thomas, a leader of the Aotearoa Alliance of Progressive Indians, an organisation of diaspora activists in New Zealand, who recently spoke to The Quint about The Kashmir Files and its ramifications.
"Firstly, the age limit for the film should be raised to 18+. Secondly, content warnings should be used. People should be told beforehand about the negative description of a particular culture and a particular community. Lastly, the state should become more vigilant and crack down harder on the Islamophobic ecosystem thriving in New Zealand before it's too late," Thomas said.
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