Indian film The Kashmir Files has been reclassified and audiences aged 18 or older will be able to see it in cinemas next week, New Zealand’s Chief Censor David Shanks said today.
The Kashmir Files is a 2022 Indian Hindi-language drama film about the exodus of Hindu people during the Kashmir Insurgency in 1990. It has been released in a number of countries with varying age restrictions and there have been reports that it has been banned in some jurisdictions.
The film was initially classified as R16 in New Zealand but a review was conducted after concerns were raised by members of the Indian community in New Zealand.
NZ Chief Censor David Shanks announced the change today after spending the 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 said.
“I watched the film, and I am 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, I think an R18 restriction is warranted 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.
“I know this decision will disappoint some members of the Hindu community that I spoke with, who believe that the film has historical value and should be released with no age restriction. Similarly, some members of the Muslim community were of the view that the risk of harm that it posed meant that it should not be screened at all. I hear and understand both perspectives.
“The community leaders that I spoke to about this made it clear to me that they do not condone or tolerate expressions of hatred or oppression in their communities, and they are prepared to play their part to ensure the film doesn’t prompt this. I believe them, and I think there is an opportunity here to build understanding and social cohesion, rather than erode it.
“My Office will provide information detailing the reasons for the decision and the process to seek a review by The Film and Literature Board of Review, as well as other information about support and help available,” David Shanks said.
“Finally I would note that it has been suggested publicly that my decision to revisit the classification of this film was some way improper or politically influenced. That is untrue. The independence of my office is absolutely central to carrying out our challenging role, and I will always act to protect it.
“Another important aspect of our role is being open to hearing from members of our society who have real concerns about the potential harm of a film, and seeking to gain a broad and balanced perspective on what might be done to address those concerns. That is what my Office and I have sought to do in this case, and I greatly appreciate the willingness of the respective communities to speak with me and support that endeavour.”