The first issue of Index on Censorship magazine, in March 1972.
You may have heard that the 70s were different. In 1972, when the first issue of Index magazine was launched, no one knew that 20 years later there would be an influential economic bloc called the European Union. The Beatles’ had only just split. The World Trade Center in New York was being built, while Sir Edward Heath was the prime minister of the United Kingdom.
Fifty years on and some things remain. Queen Elizabeth’s reign goes on and celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2022. Dictatorships and censorship, which should be trapped in history books, continue to torment the lives of many. And as a result, Index on Censorship remains vigilant, defending freedom of expression and giving voice to those who are silenced.
As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, we go back in time and remember the remarkable events that happened in 1972.[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”1″][vc_column_text]January 30th: British soldiers shoot 26 unarmed civilians during a protest in Derry, Northern Ireland. Fourteen people were killed on this day known as “Bloody Sunday”. [/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”2″][vc_column_text]February 1st: Paul McCartney and the Wings release “Give Ireland back to the Irish” in the UK. It would be banned by the BBC, nine days later. [/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”3″][vc_column_text]February 5th: Airlines in the United States begin to inspect passengers and baggage. Tough to imagine that people traveled without any surveillance. [/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”4″][vc_column_text]February 17th: British Parliament votes to join the European Common Market. In 2020, the United Kingdom would leave the European Union. [/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”5″][vc_column_text]February 21st: Richard Nixon becomes the first US president to visit China, seeking to establish positive relations in a meeting with Chinese leader Mao Zedong, in Beijing.
Mao Zedong and Richard Nixon during Nixon’s historical visit to China in 1972. Photo: Ian Dagnall/Alamy
[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”6″][vc_column_text]March 15th: The Godfather, starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino, premieres in New York. It wins Best Picture and Best Actor (Brando) at the 45th Academy Awards.
Al Pacino and Marlon Brando in the Godfather. The first film of one the most successful franchises of all time was released in 1972. Photo: All Star Library/Alamy
[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”7″][vc_column_text]June 18th: British European Airways Trident crashes after takeoff from Heathrow to Brussels, killing all 118 people on board. [/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”8″][vc_column_text]July 1st: Feminist magazine Ms, founded by Gloria Steinem, publishes its first issue, with Wonder Woman on the cover.[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”9″][vc_column_text]August 4th: Uganda dictator Idi Amin orders the expulsion of 50,000 Asians with British passports.
[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”10″][vc_column_text]September 4th and 5th: 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team are murdered by a Palestinian terrorist group in the second week of the 1972 Olympics in Munich.[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”11″][vc_column_text]September 21st: Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos declares martial law. In 2022, his son Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos is running for president. [/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”12″][vc_column_text]October 13th: A flight from Uruguay to Chile crashes in the Andes Mountains. Passengers eat the flesh of the deceased to survive. Sixteen people are rescued two months later.[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”13″][vc_column_text]November 30th: BBC bans “Hi, Hi, Hi”, by Paul McCartney and The Wings, due to its drug references and suggestive sexual content. [/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”14″][vc_column_text]December 7th: Apollo 17 is launched and the crew takes the famous “blue marble” photo of the entire Earth.
The earth seen from the Apollo 17 spacecraft. Photo: NASA/Alamy
[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”15″][vc_column_text]December 28th: Kim Il-Sung takes over as president of North Korea. He’s the grandfather of the country’s current leader, Kim Jong-un. [/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”16″][vc_column_text]December 30th: US President Richard Nixon halts bombing of North Vietnam and announces peace talks in Paris, to be held in January 1973. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Freedom of expression is often understood solely through the lens of state censorship. This symposium, however, starts from the premise that social, economic and other constraints shape any film from the outset, rather than only coming at the end of the process in the form of intervention by the state or other parties. It seeks to explore the different kinds of limitations on freedom of cinematic expression, from funding through to problems on set, lack of local distribution and travel restrictions, as well as the complex negotiation between constraints and political and creative impulses behind the films. It will deal with questions such as what types of constraints do filmmakers face when they make and distribute films in the region? To what extent are these constraints either productive or harmful? How do the creative strategies used by filmmakers evolve in response to the constraints?
The symposium will offer new insights into filmmaking from the region, revitalising debates on cinematic creativity in sites of conflict and crisis in the Middle East and beyond.
Confirmed speakers include:
Mounia Akl, Film Director, Submarine (Lebanon, US, 2016)
Naziha Arebi, Film Director, Freedom Fields (UK, Libya, 2018)
Shirin Barghnavard, Film Director, Profession: Documentarist (Iran, 2014)
Fay Breeman, Manager, Hubert Bals Fund of the International Film Festival Rotterdam
Tamer El Said, Film Director and Co-Founder, Cimatheque, Cairo
Julia Farrington, Associate Arts Producer, Index on Censorship
Yael Friedman, Documentary Filmmaker and film scholar
Malu Halasa, Writer and Editor
Ali Jaberansari, Film Director, Tehran: City of Love (Iran, UK, Netherlands, 2018)
Basil Khalil, Film Director, Ave Maria (Palestine, France, Germany, 2015)
Rima Mismar, Executive Director, Arab Fund for Arts and Culture
Persheng Sadegh-Vaziri, Documentary Filmmaker and Film Scholar
Naghmeh Samini, Screenwriter
Elhum Shakerifar, BAFTA-nominated film producer, MENA programme advisor for the BFI London Film Festival and Film Curator for Shubbak, festival of contemporary Arab culture
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”104099″ img_size=”full”][vc_column_text]“If you want to make films in Burundi, you either self-censor and you remain in the country or if you don’t, you have to flee the country,” Eddy Munyaneza, a Burundian documentary filmmaker, told Index on Censorship.
Munyaneza became fascinated in the process of filmmaking at a young age, despite the lack of cinematic resources in Burundi.
He now is the man behind the camera and has released three documentaries since 2010, two of which have drawn the ire of the Burundian government and forced Munyaneza into exile.
His first documentary — Histoire d’une haine manquée — was released in 2010 and has received awards from international and African festivals. The film is based on his personal experience of the Burundian genocide of 1993, which took place after the assassination of the country’s first democratically elected Hutu president Ndadye Melchoir. It focuses on the compassionate actions he witnessed when his Hutu neighbours saved him and his Tutsi sisters from the mass killings that swept the country. The film launched Munyaneza’s career as a filmmaker.
Munyaneza was honoured by Burundi’s president Pierre Nkurunziza for his first film and his work was praised by government officials. But the accolades faded when he turned his camera toward Nkurunziza for his second film in 2016.
The film, Le Troisieme Vide, focused on the two-year political crisis and president’s mandate that followed Nkurunziza’s campaign for an unconstitutional third term in April 2015. During the following two years, between 500 and 2,000 people were tortured and killed, and 400,000 were exiled.
The filming of his second documentary was disrupted when Munyaneza started receiving death threats from the government’s secret service. He was forced to seek asylum in Belgium in 2016 for fear of his life. Through perseverance and passion, he quietly returned to Burundi in July 2016 and April 2017 to finish his short film.
Exile hasn’t affected Munyaneza’s work: in 2018 he released his third film, Lendemains incertains. It tells the stories of Burundians who have stayed or left the country during the 2015 political tension. He secretely returned to Burundi to capture additional footage for his new film, which premiered in Brussels at the Palace Cinema and several festivals.
“I lead a double life, my helplessness away from my loved ones, and the success of the film on the other,” he said. He continues to work in exile, but also works toward returning to Burundi to see his wife and kids who currently reside in a refugee camp in Rwanda, and to create film, photography and audio programs for aspiring Burundian filmmakers.
Gillian Trudeau from Index on Censorship spoke with Munyaneza about his award-winning documentaries and time in exile.
Index: In a country that doesn’t have an abundance of film or cinema resources, how did you become so passionate about filmmaking?
Munyaneza: I was born in a little village where there was no access to electricity or television. At the age of 7, I could go into town for Sunday worship. After the first service, I would go to the cinema in the centre of the town of Gitega. We watched American movies about the Vietnam war and karate films, as well as other action movies which are attractive to young people. After the film my friends and I would have debates about the reality and whether they had been filmed by satellites. I was always against that idea and told them that behind everything there was someone who was making the film, and I was curious to know how they did it. That’s why since that time I’ve been interested in the cinema. Unfortunately, in Burundi, there is no film school. After I finished school in 2002, I began to learn by doing. I was given the opportunity to work with a company called MENYA MEDIA which was getting into audiovisual production and I got training in lots of different things, cinema, writing, and I began to make promotional films. The more I worked, the more I learned.
Index: How would you characterise artistic freedom in Burundi today, and is that any different to when you were growing up?
Munyaneza: To be honest, Burundian cinema really got going with the arrival of digital in the 2000s. Before 2000 there was a feature film called Gito L’Ingrat which was shot in 1992 and directed by Lionce Ngabo and produced by Jacques Sando. After that, there were some productions by National Television and other documentary projects for TV made in-house by National Television. I won’t say that the artistic freedom in those days was so different from today. The evidence is that since those years, I can say after independence, there have not been Burundian filmmakers who have made films about Burundi (either fictional or factual). There were not really any Burundian films made by independent filmmakers between 1960 and 1990. The man who dared to make a film about the 1993 crisis, Kiza by Joseph Bitamba, was forced to go into exile, just as I have been forced to go into exile for my film about the events of 2015. So if you want to make films in Burundi, you either self-censor and you remain in the country or if you don’t, you have to flee the country.
Index: You began receiving threats after you made your second film, Le troisieme vide, in 2016. The film focused on the political crisis that followed the re-election of president Nkurunziza. Why do you think the film received such a reaction?
Munyaneza: Troisieme Vide is a short film which was my final project at the end of my masters in cinema at Saint Louis in Senegal. I knew that just making a film about the 2015 crisis would spark debate. Talking about the events which led to the 2015 crisis, caused by a president who ran for a third term, which he is not allowed to do by the constitution, I was sure that when this film came out I would have problems with the government. But I am not going to be silent like people who are older than me have done, who did not document what went on in Burundi from the 1960s, and have in effect just made the lie bigger. I want to escape this Burundian fate, to at least leave something for the generations to come.
Index: How did you come to the decision to leave Burundi and what did that feel like?
Munyaneza: Burundi is a beautiful country with a beautiful climate. My whole history is there – my family, my friends. It is too difficult to leave your history behind. The road into exile is something you are obliged to do. It’s not a decision, it’s a question of life or death.
Index: How is life in Belgium, being away from your wife and children?
Munyaneza: It is very difficult for me to continue to live far from my family ties. I miss my children. I remain in this state of powerlessness, unable to do anything for them, to educate them or speak to them. It is difficult to sleep without knowing under what roof they are sleeping.
Index: How has your time in exile affected your work?
Munyaneza: On the work front, there is the film which is making its way. It has been chosen for lots of festivals and awards. I have just got the prize (trophy) for best documentary at the African Movie Academy Award 2018. I was invited but I couldn’t go. I lead a double life, my helplessness away from my loved ones, and the success of the film on the other. I have been invited to several festivals to present my film, but I don’t have the right to leave the country because of my refugee status. I am under international protection here in Belgium.
Index: You have returned to your home country on several occasions to film footage for your films. What dangers are your putting yourself in by doing this? And what drives you to take these risks?
Munyaneza: I risked going back to Burundi in July 2016 and in April 2017 to finish my film. To be honest, I didn’t know how the film was going to end up and sometimes I believed that by negotiating with the politicians it could take end up differently. When you are outside (the country) you get lots of information both from pro-government people and from the opposition. The artist that I am I wanted to go and see for myself and film the situation as it was. Perhaps it was a little crazy on my part but I felt an obligation to do it.
Index: Your most recent film, Uncertain Endings, looks at the violence the country has faced since 2015. In it, you show the repression of peaceful protesters. Why are demonstrators treated in such a way and what does this say about the future of the country?
Munyaneza: The selection of Pierre Nkurunziza as the candidate for the Cndd-FDD after the party conference on 25 April provoked a wave of demonstrations in the country. The opposition and numerous civil society bodies judged that a third term for President Nkurinziza would be unconstitutional and against the Arusha accords which paved the way for the end of the long Burundian civil war (1993-2006). These young people are fighting to make sure these accords, which got the country out of a crisis and have stood for years, are followed. Unfortunately, because of this repression, we are back to where we started. In fact, we are returning to the cyclical crises which has been going on in Burundi since the 1960s. But what I learnt from the young people was that the Burundian problem was not based on ethnic divides as we were always told. There were both Hutu and Tutsi there, both taking part in defending the constitution and the Arusha accords. It is the politicians who are manipulating us.
Index: Do you hold out any hope of improvements in Burundi? Do you hope one day to be able to return to your home country?
Munyaneza: After the rain, the sun will reappear. Today it’s a little difficult, but I am sure that politicians will find a way of getting out of this crisis so that we can build this little country. I am sure that one day I’ll go back and make films about my society. I don’t just have to tell stories about the crisis. Burundi is so rich culturally, there are a lot of stories to tell in pictures.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnGPlAd1to8&t=24s”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1543844506394-837bd669-b5fd-5″ taxonomies=”29951, 15469″][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Films, like every kind of art, are often made purely for cinema’s sake – but sometimes they aren’t. Some of the most iconic recent films have actually played a major role in inspiring rights’ movements and protests around the world.
Ten Years, recipient of Hong Kong’s best film award on 3 April 2016, is just one of the latest examples of how cinema can side up with rights: films have often given protests momentum and a cultural reference.
Sometimes, directors have spoken out publicly in favour of protests; other times the films themselves have documented political abuses. In other cases, protesters and activists have given a film a new life, turning it into an icon for their protests on social media even against the directors’ original ideas.
Here are a few recent cases of popular films that have become symbols of rights’ movements around the world:
Directed by Chow Kwun-Wai with a $64,500 budget, Ten Years is a “political horror” set in a dystopian 2025 Hong Kong. In the five short stories told in the film, Chow Kwun-Wai warns against the effects that ten years of Beijing’s influence would have on Hong Kong: The erosion of human rights, the destruction of local culture and heavy censorship.
According to the South China Morning Post, Ten Years was not intended to be a political film, but the political content is explosive to the extent that some critics have dubbed it “the occupy central of cinema”.
China Digital Times reports that both the film and the awards ceremony are banned in China. On Sina Weibo, China’s leading social network, the searches “Ten Years + Film Awards” (十年＋金像) and “Ten Years + film” (十年＋电影) are blocked from results.
Winner of a 2015 Oscar, Birdman’s plot is not about rights or protests: The film told the story of a popular actor’s struggles years after his success impersonating a superhero.
But Mexican director’s Alejandro González Iñárritu’s acceptance speech turned it into the symbol of a protest against Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.
After asking for a respect and dignity for Mexican immigrants in the USA, Iñárritu said in his speech: “I want to dedicate this award for my fellow Mexicans, the ones who live in Mexico. I pray that we can find and build a government that we deserve.”
The speech came after the Mexican government declared the death of 43 students who went missing while organising a protest.
Iñárritu’s speech made Twitter erupt against Peña Nieto’s government under the hashtag #ElGobiernoQueMerecemos, “the government we deserve”.
Twitter user Guillermo Padilla said, “Now we are only missing a good ‘director’ in this country” – a play on words since “director” means both director and leader in Spanish.
The sci-fi blockbuster Hunger Games took a life of its own in Thailand, where student demonstrators turned the protagonist’s salute into a symbol of rebellion against the ruling junta.
In the film, set in a heavily oppressed country where every year young people are forced to fight to death in a nationally televised contest, protagonist Katniss Everdeen defies the central government and inspires a rebellion against totalitarian rule. Her three-finger salute becomes the symbol of the protest.
In Thailand, students started to use the three-finger salute as a symbol of rebellion after the military government took power with a coup on 22 May 2014 and clamped down on all forms of protest, censored the country’s news media, limited the right to public assembly and arrested critics and opponents. According to The New York Times, hundreds of academics, journalists and activists have been detained for up to a month.
The Guardian reported that social activist Sombat Boonngam-anong wrote on Facebook: “Raising three fingers has become a symbol in calling for fundamental political rights.”
Since then, using the salute in public in groups of more than five people has been prohibited through martial law.
V for Vendetta
V for Vendetta holds a special place among films about freedom of speech. In 2005, it was incredibly successful bringing the themes freedom of speech and rebellion against tyranny into the mainstream media debate.
In the film, a freedom fighter plots to overthrow the tyranny ruling on Britain in a dystopian future. The mask he always wears has the features of Guy Fawkes, an English Catholic who attempted to blow up the parliament on 5 November 1605.
The mask has since become an icon. According to The Economist, the mask has become a regular feature of many protests. Among others, it has been adopted by the Occupy movement and Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.
David Lloyd, author of the graphic novel on which the film is based, has called the mask a “convenient placard to use in protest against tyranny … It seems quite unique, an icon of popular culture being used this way.”
In 2015, the film historical drama Suffragette inspired a protest against the government’s cuts to women services in Britain.
The film shows the struggle for women’s rights that took place in the beginning of the 20th century, when Emmeline Pankhurst led an all-women fight to gain the right to vote.
Before the movie premiere in London’s Leicester Square, activists from the feminist group Sister Uncut broke away from the main crowd, and laid down on the red carpet.
According to The Independent, they chanted “It is our duty to fight for our freedom,” and held signs reading “Dead women can’t vote” and “2 women killed every week” to draw attention to domestic violence and cuts to women’s services.
One protester told The Independent: “We’re the modern suffragettes and domestic violence cuts are demonstrating that little has changed for us 97 years later.”