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Culture

Kashmir Documentary at Berlinale Sparks Controversy

Indian authorities have taken umbrage at the film "Kashmir: Journey to Freedom." They are refusing to allow its American-Israeli director, Udi Aloni, to return to India, the director said.

A film still of demonstrating kashmiris

The film focuses on Muslim Kashmiris' unarmed resistance

Panorama is a Berlinale showcase for independent and arthouse cinema.

Told that a diplomat from the Indian Embassy was among the Berlin film audience when his film was screened, Aloni called to him, saying he should be allowed back into the country.

"Send them a message, please let me return to India. I really miss my friends from Kashmir, and I really love to be in India," he said while defending his documentary and insisting he'd done India a good service in making it.

Filmstill from Kahsmir: Journy to Freedom

A still from the film

Aloni said he'd gone to Kashmir without really knowing what he was going to see, and that his film was less a documentary, "more an action movie of a different sort."

Press release: 'Land of Terror'

"I have alway believed in non-violence," he said.

Kashmir, once described by Mahatma Gandhi as "a pillar of light in a subcontinent lost in darkness," had become "a land of terror and despair, its people suffering under the strain of constant violence and human rights violations," a press release about the film said.

Aloni tells how a new generation of young Muslim Kashmiris, after years of armed resistance, decide to lay down their arms and start a nonviolent resistance movement - in the hope of finally achieving peace and independence. Aloni's protagonists are shown as they launch their new struggle.

Ultimately denied permission to return to India, he was forced to tell the rest of the story from afar.

India, the world's biggest movie-making nation, has a notably low presence at this year's Berlinale, which runs through Feb. 15. It doesn't have a single feature vying for the competition's top Golden Bear awards.

India's Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has dispatched one of its top officials, Ms Sushma Singh, to Berlin to help promote Indian films.

"The film industry in India is very important for us," she said at the opening of the India Film Pavilion near the festival's headquarters.

An Indian-German film cooperation agreement was sealed in Berlin during the course of last year's Berlinale and subsequently approved by the German parliament, she said.

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