The Children’s Film Society of India (CFSI) was founded in 1955 as an autonomous body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting with Pundit Hriday Nath Kunzru as its President
. Since then CFSI has continued to produce, exhibit and distribute quality content for children, from feature films, shorts, and animations to television episodes and documentaries. It is established with some special grants (Rs 2-3 Crores approximately / Event by Ministry of Information and broadcasting), with the hope that Indigenous and exclusive cinema for children can be promoted to stimulate their creativity, compassion and critical thinking.
Over the years some of the brightest talents of Indian Cinema have directed films for International Children’s Film Festival (ICFF). They were joined by many other new and imaginative filmmakers who created some of the most delightful content for children in the country in the following years. CFSI is also responsible for promoting films that provide healthy and wholesome entertainment for children to broaden their perspective and encourage them to reflect on the world around them and it has played a major role in strengthening the children’s film movement within India and promoting Indian-produced children’s films across the globe.
The international children’s film festival of India (ICFF/ICFFI) is popularly known as the
‘Golden Elephant’ and the festival is conducted once every two years in India intending to bring together national and international children’s cinema to young Indian audiences.
The film festival is said to be a rotational event that happens in different states and cities until 1995 but was conducted frequently in Hyderabad till 2017 due to the availability of a large number of film screens and venues all in one place, besides having a good airline connectivity network to several foreign countries.
The then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Nara Chandrababu Naidu had also allotted 11 acres of land at the heart of the city in Hyderabad to construct more needed Infrastructure, auditoriums and other amenities for the above event and he also wrote an open letter to the central government to make Hyderabad a permanent destination for ICFFI.
The current issue
The International Children’s Film festival of India (ICFF) which used to happen regularly between November 14 (Children’s Day) to November 20 biannually for 7 days is said to have been put aside now for the past few years due to various explanations. The event is said to have stopped its functioning in Hyderabad in 2019 due to the sudden preponement of the Telangana state elections that year that was held around November/December which was the same time as the ICFFI…!
Later CFSI is said to have kept the Children’s Film Festival of India (ICFFI) aside due to other reasons such as the Covid pandemic between 2020 & 2021, and now the CFSI (The Children’s film society) is merged with National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) as per the new G.O brought in by the Central Govt, reportedly to avoid the duplication of festivals related work and put all the festivals related dept’s under one roof.
However, the NFDC is said to have not missed organizing the IFFI, Goa this year, but it missed doing the same for ICFF in Hyderabad besides knowing that it missed for the past few years. ICFF is the only film festival that used to be held in Hyderabad. Also, unlike other cities and states, there is no other Film Festival organized in Hyderabad despite TFI being one of the country’s three big film industries.
ETimes reached out to the respective members and here’s what they have to say:
“No longer under our Control”
An ex-CFSI government official says, “Now the festival scheme is not with us, it has been moved to NFDC. In the past, we were responsible for it but now it is completely under NFDC’s control starting from Jan 1, 2022. Therefore the ICFFI should go to them as we are not doing any CFSI activity now. Also, it is the inability of the Telangana Govt that has stopped organising the festival. In 2019 there was a letter from Telangana FDC saying they can’t organise the festival due to a sudden flood and elections, this is a co-partner festival and we can’t do anything if the host is not ready. For all the state activities they have to bear those expenses. Moreover, half of the CFSI employees have already joined other organisations. Now, they have to approach NFDC and it’s their call now to have it in Hyderabad or not. It’s the NFDC’s to decide.
“NFDC has not responded to our letters”
Sakam Krishna Murthy, who has exhibited more than 1500 children’s films in schools through an NGO says, “We as a voluntary organization have been organizing the festival since 2011, We screened children’s films free of cost. Now due to newly developed digital technology, it will be even easier for us and everyone to conduct the festival but NFDC has to take the Initiative as soon as possible as it has taken CFSI under its control and is responsible now. We have had no reply from NFDC despite our writing several letters, and emails back-to-back to give the plan of action of ICFFI!”
“We are approximately paying Rs 1800 crores/year as GST to the Govts of this country but none is interested in spending even 5% of it for the development of the film Industry and Children’s films”
Nagabala Suresh Kumar, who has won multiple awards and has been a jury member of the International Children Film Festival 2017, says, “Every FDC official & politician here says that the film Industry has to develop in Hyderabad and it should become a hub for films but nobody comes forward to grant funds and to organize such good work that brings in lots of laurels to the city and state. We are approximately paying Rs 1800 crores GST to our Govts of which 9 per cent goes to Telangana Govt from the TV Industry alone. Additionally, Rs 400 crores of GST goes from the Telugu Film industry but our Govt has no concern for children and their welfare activities. They don’t mind spending any money on political programmes and self-goal schemes but not for the children. Now our FDC members also have no time to talk to us, despite it being their duty. If they say that there is no revenue from organizing the Children’s Film festival, I want to ask them if they are doing any business with children. How could one see it from a commercial angle? Is it not the government’s duty to organize such?”
“Neither the Govts nor the FDC officials have any interest in it”
Basi Reddy, Film Producer, President, of the Telugu Film Chamber Of Commerce, says, “In the past, FDC people said that they are not willing to organize this festival in Hyderabad due to no financial returns, and also stopped funding such films as there is no market for these kinds of movies. There were 11 acres of land given for the above affair and now Telangana Govt is said to be using it for some other purpose if my guess is right.”
“This is nothing sort of exploiting the Children’s rights, as it was founded with a certain hope for them”
Allani Sreedhar, Award-winning filmmaker, chairman of – Jury, International children film Festival of India-2015 adds, “I was the chairman of the little director’s jury in 2015. But now the issue is between two FDC’s State and Central and their unwillingness to coordinate and organize. To top it all, CSFI is now merged with NFDC, therefore not many know whom to contact for it
. However, we have been trying our best with a few known personalities and ICFFI should not be seen from a commercial angle, as this is something that will be useful for future generations. If children are exposed to good and moral content that would help a generation to build a moral and ethical society and that is the sole Intention it has been initiated. Therefore, this should not be looked at as a business value but as a duty of the governments and their associated bodies. Children have every right to film entertainment of their age, if not, we are exploiting their rights!”
“Even IFFI has no Commercial Value then why is the NFDC & Govt spending crores of money on it?”
Acharya Chakravartula, ICFFI Jury 2015, says, “It seems like the Telangana government has no interest in organizing this; If it would have requested the NFDC to organize it, it’s the government’s duty to host the event. The Central Government also has some special grants for this festival. Even the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), in Goa, doesn’t generate any revenue for its organization then why did they organize it in Goa? Whereas this ‘ICFFI’ is at least useful to the children as a cultural activity to help grow their moral standards.”
“Why did NFDC forget only ICFFI and not IFFI, Goa?”
Machiraju Sai Prasad, State Film award winner, producer and co-ordinator of ICFFI since 2009, “We can’t see everything with commercial interest, so why is the government running public schools, that have no commercial benefits for them? They get nothing out of running them right, so, should we also stop government schools? Why did NFDC organise IFFI in Goa even after getting merged with NFDC despite there being this Covid? And why did it not do the same for ICFFI? If it was interesting, it could have organized the event online! If ICFFI is organized in Hyderabad by the government, we’ll get Hyderabad’s tourism and Hotel Industry to grow; Hyderabad will become a film hub of the Nation! Why is NFDC organizing Indian Panorama in Goa, despite it having its head office in Mumbai?”
“Several Child actors have grown up to be responsible actors today due to the events like ICFFI, therefore it shouldn’t be missed as it is a welfare programme for the children of this nation”
Dr Padmini Nagulapalli, censor board member & ICFFI Jury 2017 says, “Children are the future of any country and they’ll be the future filmmakers; If they are not exposed to content like this they’ll get exposed to other forms of controversial content online which is not good for society. Several actors in this country have started their careers as child actors and today they are leading the Industry. Take Jr NTR, Tharun, Baladitya and Ali for example. To top it Hyderabad is the best venue for it given its transportation and boarding, movie halls, and other amenities all at once place. Every year the government spends lots of money on various welfare activities but they should not ignore this just because they are children and they’ll not ask for it. Therefore, both FDC and NFDC must take action immediately and organize it as soon as possible.”
“ICFFI is in the minority section in the Indian Film festivals Section”
Kondapaneni Umamaheshwar Rao, National Awards jury member and censor board member, says, “Our government has no interest in spending money on these Film festivals. Therefore they didn’t conduct the 2019 festival itself. Then it got neglected due to Covid and other reasons. I think the issue is also with both FDC and NFDC members who organize the event. Else it would not have to be neglected like this. They don’t have to spend money elsewhere; they can just spend from what they collect from our Entertainment Industry in the form of taxes in various forms.”
“We are nobody to exploit Children’s rights”
Varala Anand, journalist, film activist and ICFFI jury member in 2017, says, “It is very bad to neglect children’s rights, as they don’t have voting rights in the General elections. Our FDC members have the least to no interest in organizing such good and moral events. To top it, several non-film people are being appointed to such key positions who have no idea about all these and know what is important and why? Also, there is no truth in saying that ICFFI is not economically viable, we have lots of sponsors for it, and we get it back in several other forms such as tourism, hotels, and films and if NFDC can stream all those award-winning films on-line, it will flourish.”
“Irresponsible Govts and employees”
Anant Chaganti, the producer, and censor board consultant, says, “The problem now is we have divided into two states and Govts and no one is willing to take initiative and organize it. It’s the responsibility of the Film Development Corporation of Telangana and it is the government of Telangana’s responsibility to organize the event for 7 days. Since the govt hasn’t organized any festival for the past few years it should have organized grandly this year at least. The government has lots of Money collected from Tollywood as Entertainment tax and GST. Therefore, they need not worry about any financial issues as it is the Money that is collected from us, we are asking to spend. FDC has also stopped giving funds for children’s films though it was supposed to help such educational films. Nobody in the FDC cares/asks about it, despite Tollywood having 2 Govts! Important awards such as Nandi, and NTR Awards, too were stopped for the past few years now…!”
“Children’s film festival should be continued to enrich our children with vignettes of cultural practices”
Dr Shravan Kumar, IRS, ICFFI Director for 3 seasons from 2012 to 2017, “Film festivals for children are carnivals of creativity. Hyderabad is known worldwide for hosting one of the best and biggest international children’s film festivals. I feel proud to have been the festival director of the Golden elephant international children’s film festival for three consecutive editions till 2017. In terms of participants, whether it is the filmmakers, audience, or the connoisseurs of children’s films including media, the festival attained the pinnacle of its glory. I sincerely hope that such endeavours continue in time to enrich our children with vignettes of cultural practices from different regions of the globe.”