Minister for Communications and Information Technology Gokul Baskota announced his ministry is preparing a new bill to ‘protect and promote’ the Nepali film industry – a key proposed change is a ‘six month ban on foreign films in Nepalese cinema halls’. Well, that sounds like good news to many – just yesterday, artists and other personnel of the Nepali film industry were protesting the government’s decision to allow Nepal to host IIFA while the government blatantly neglected the Nepali cinema industry. However, what is more baffling is that just the day before yesterday (metaphorically), the government was actually, in a way, promoting Bollywood (foreign films) in Nepal by allowing them to host the IIFA awards. The government even said they would invest NRS 450 million into the project.
These three events and their immediate unfolding begs us to question what kind of administration the Oli government is running. Are they just paying heed to their impulses, or actually giving a considerable thought to the matter in hand before making an ‘announcement of their intentions’. Just like every other bill they propose, this new bill is going to be met with resistance too. The matter however, is beyond resistance, it questions the logic the administration uses to run the government – one that is impulsive and inexperienced. The government, in consideration towards hosting the show, could have organised something in lieu which would benefit the Nepali cinema industry, and so many things could have done – if this administration had the experience to tackle ‘unpopularity’.
First, they made an announcement to host the IIFA awards without proper analysis of the public sentiment – one that is ‘anti-Indian’. Considering Oli rose the entire anti-Indian sentiment to power, he could have at least paid a little attention there. Moreover, the same party (at least the Maoist centre faction of it), which once advocated for the ban of ‘all things foreign’ wants to host an Indian cinema award – the public is not stupid, of course they are going to catch up on it. The government did not even have a plan of the benefits the award show would bring – oh! that was going to be immense – probably enough to make Visit Nepal 2020 a roaring success.
Soon enough, the parliamentary committee advises the government to put a hold on IIFA, and next we see a random proposal in the making. The proposal does highlight key issues that plague the cinema industry – socially destructive content being one, not enough depiction of Nepali culture, the second, lack of financing, the third amongst others.
However, the proposed bill goes a step further – to ban foreign films. The concern, however is right – that ‘big budgeted Bollywood/Hollywood pictures overshadow quality Nepalese films. However, is protectionism the right way, or rather, a regressive move? Would you watch a Nepali film by force, or skip it entirely? Isn’t promoting Nepalese cinema to produce ‘qualitative content’ a better approach – funds could be created for aspiring filmmakers, universities could be encouraged to invest in good film schools, namely a few. Perhaps the government could also build a film city?