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'The Kerala Story' To Be Released in UK: Why Were Shows Cancelled Earlier?

Last week, The Kerala Story was abruptly pulled from theatres before its screening in the UK on 12 May.

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After The Kerala Story was abruptly pulled from theatres in the United Kingdom ahead of its scheduled release on 12 May, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) gave the green light for the release of the controversial film, which will be screened from Friday, 19 May.

All the scheduled shows were cancelled last week, as the film had not received an age classification from the BBFC. The body has now given the film '18' rating. It has also given a detailed content advice to viewers watching the film.

Notably, under the 'Discrimination' rating, the BBFC has written: "The film presents a partial and unbalanced view of Islam which focuses on radical Islamist characters and motivations to the exclusion of more moderate and mainstream forms of the faith. There are regular scenes of discrimination on the basis of religion and gender. A woman spits on her dying father for not sharing her faith."

Last week, The Kerala Story was abruptly pulled from theatres before its screening in the UK on 12 May.

BBFC's content advice to viewers watching The Kerala Story.

(Photo: Screenshot/BBFC)

Last week, The Kerala Story was abruptly pulled from theatres before its screening in the UK on 12 May.

BBFC's content advice to viewers watching The Kerala Story.

(Photo: Screenshot/BBFC)

Last week, The Kerala Story was abruptly pulled from theatres before its screening in the UK on 12 May.

BBFC's content advice to viewers watching The Kerala Story.

(Photo: Screenshot/BBFC)

What Happened Last Week?

Last week, the screenings of The Kerala Story in Hindi, Tamil, and Malayalam, scheduled across 31 cinemas in the UK, were cancelled. Additionally, cinema websites stopped all ticket sales and initiated refunds for the cancelled shows, according to Mint.

Cineworld, a platform that sold the tickets of the film, said on Twitter:

"...we are sorry that the upcoming performances of The Kerala Story have been cancelled. This is due to the film not receiving an age rating in time for the scheduled release date, all affected customers will be contacted and refunded. Apologies for any disappointment caused."

Those who had booked tickets for the film also received an email from Cineworld. One such email posted by Twitter user said, "This e-mail is to let you know that due to the lack of age certification for The Kerala Story by the BBFC at Cineworld Wembley, we have had to cancel the booking you made for 12/05/2023."

The move, however, was met with massive outrage from several Indians in the UK. Some even claimed that the BBFC was deliberately withholding the film to pander to "certain groups."

'The Kerala Story' To Be Released in UK: Why Were Shows Cancelled Earlier?

  1. 1. What Did the Distributor Say?

    Releasing a movie in the UK without proper classification is unlawful. Owing to an alleged 'delay' in receiving this classification, the distributor of the film in the UK, 24 SEVEN FLIX4U, instructed all theatres to cancel the scheduled screenings of The Kerala Story on 12 May, according to Mint

    Reports also suggested that the theatres were almost houseful. The director of 24 SEVEN FLIX4U, Suresh Varsani, told TOI that he had submitted the film (in Hindi, Tamil, and Malayalam) to the BBFC on 10 May, and that the board had watched the movie over that day and the next day. He further claimed that age classification is normally done on the same day.

    The BBFC, meanwhile, tweeted that the film is undergoing the classification process. "The Kerala Story is still going through our classification process. Once the film has received a BBFC age rating and content advice, it will be available to be screened in UK cinemas."

    Varsani went on to claim that it's "suspicious," as the BBFC has not given a "valid reason" for the alleged delay. "Why do they need more time when they have had three days?" he asked, according to TOI.

    Expand
  2. 2. What Is BBFC's Classification Criteria?

    As per the BBFC's website, "films for cinema release are usually seen by at least two of our Compliance Officers, and in most cases, their age rating recommendation is approved by the Compliance Managers."

    It goes on to say:

    "If Compliance Officers are in any doubt, if a film is on the borderline between two categories, or if important policy issues are involved, it may be seen by other members of the BBFC, up to and including the Chief Executive, the President and Vice Presidents. Occasionally, we may also call for expert advice about the legal acceptability of film content or its potential for harm."

    The Quint has reached out to the BBFC to enquire whether there was any delay in giving classification to The Kerala Story. This story will be updated once we receive a response.

    It is important to note that The Kerala Story's makers have been accused of hate speech, propaganda, and spreading false narratives using exaggerated numbers and claims. The film's claim of 32,000 women being forcefully converted and manipulated to join ISIS has been contested and debunked by multiple media publications. 

    The film has also been accused of insensitively portraying sexual violence for the sake of 'shock value'.

    Expand
  3. 3. Outrage on Social Media

    The decision to pull the film from theatres had irked several Indians living in Britain. Many took to Twitter to express their displeasure over the cancellation of the shows.

    Karan Kataria, a London School of Economics (LSE) student who was recently debarred from contesting the varsity's students' union polls, tweeted:

    "Apparently, the @BBFC is not certifying the Kerala Story. What's the issue? Is it not an example of censorship and a violation of freedom of speech and expression ? Artistic expression should be celebrated, not stifled."

    Another user wrote: "The question is, why the delay? This is a serious movie that explores how young girls might be groomed to join outfits like ISIS. Surely BBFC is not delaying as part of its move to appease to the extremists?"

    Some users even called for a protest to get the BBFC to certify the film. "If #TheKeralaStory is not release ASAP, maybe we all need to go in protest outside 3 Soho Square London! [sic]," a user wrote on Twitter.

    After the BBFC cleared the film for viewing, the director of the film, Sudipto Sen, took to Twitter to say: "Congratulations #GreatBritain. You won. Terrorism lost. Shall wait for your reaction. Oh... now British people shall watch the biggest revolution against terror... [sic]."

    Actor Adah Sharma, who plays the lead role in the film, also tweeted, "FINALLY !!! #TheKeralaStory releasing in the UK [sic]."

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

What Did the Distributor Say?

Releasing a movie in the UK without proper classification is unlawful. Owing to an alleged 'delay' in receiving this classification, the distributor of the film in the UK, 24 SEVEN FLIX4U, instructed all theatres to cancel the scheduled screenings of The Kerala Story on 12 May, according to Mint

Reports also suggested that the theatres were almost houseful. The director of 24 SEVEN FLIX4U, Suresh Varsani, told TOI that he had submitted the film (in Hindi, Tamil, and Malayalam) to the BBFC on 10 May, and that the board had watched the movie over that day and the next day. He further claimed that age classification is normally done on the same day.

The BBFC, meanwhile, tweeted that the film is undergoing the classification process. "The Kerala Story is still going through our classification process. Once the film has received a BBFC age rating and content advice, it will be available to be screened in UK cinemas."

Varsani went on to claim that it's "suspicious," as the BBFC has not given a "valid reason" for the alleged delay. "Why do they need more time when they have had three days?" he asked, according to TOI.

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What Is BBFC's Classification Criteria?

As per the BBFC's website, "films for cinema release are usually seen by at least two of our Compliance Officers, and in most cases, their age rating recommendation is approved by the Compliance Managers."

It goes on to say:

"If Compliance Officers are in any doubt, if a film is on the borderline between two categories, or if important policy issues are involved, it may be seen by other members of the BBFC, up to and including the Chief Executive, the President and Vice Presidents. Occasionally, we may also call for expert advice about the legal acceptability of film content or its potential for harm."

The Quint has reached out to the BBFC to enquire whether there was any delay in giving classification to The Kerala Story. This story will be updated once we receive a response.

It is important to note that The Kerala Story's makers have been accused of hate speech, propaganda, and spreading false narratives using exaggerated numbers and claims. The film's claim of 32,000 women being forcefully converted and manipulated to join ISIS has been contested and debunked by multiple media publications. 

The film has also been accused of insensitively portraying sexual violence for the sake of 'shock value'.

0

Outrage on Social Media

The decision to pull the film from theatres had irked several Indians living in Britain. Many took to Twitter to express their displeasure over the cancellation of the shows.

Karan Kataria, a London School of Economics (LSE) student who was recently debarred from contesting the varsity's students' union polls, tweeted:

"Apparently, the @BBFC is not certifying the Kerala Story. What's the issue? Is it not an example of censorship and a violation of freedom of speech and expression ? Artistic expression should be celebrated, not stifled."

Another user wrote: "The question is, why the delay? This is a serious movie that explores how young girls might be groomed to join outfits like ISIS. Surely BBFC is not delaying as part of its move to appease to the extremists?"

Some users even called for a protest to get the BBFC to certify the film. "If #TheKeralaStory is not release ASAP, maybe we all need to go in protest outside 3 Soho Square London! [sic]," a user wrote on Twitter.

After the BBFC cleared the film for viewing, the director of the film, Sudipto Sen, took to Twitter to say: "Congratulations #GreatBritain. You won. Terrorism lost. Shall wait for your reaction. Oh... now British people shall watch the biggest revolution against terror... [sic]."

Actor Adah Sharma, who plays the lead role in the film, also tweeted, "FINALLY !!! #TheKeralaStory releasing in the UK [sic]."

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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