In yet another protectionist move, Oli administration prepares to limit foreign film screeningsA new law will mandate showing Nepali films exclusively for half a year, and limiting foreign movies—predominantly Bollywood—to 185 days.
After social media and the press, the government is now preparing to prescribe what films Nepalis will be able to watch in cinema halls.
A new law, which is currently in its draft stage, will restrict the screening of foreign films in cinema halls to 185 days a year. During the remainder of the six months, only Nepali films will have to be shown at every multiplex and single theatre across the country.
The new act, which is under review at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, is being formulated according to the National Film Policy, according to officials from the Film Development Board. The policy states that Nepali cinema halls ought to allocate a certain percentage of total screening days to exclusively Nepali films. The 180 days don’t have to be consecutive but almost half of the year’s screenings should be devoted solely to Nepali films, according to the proposed act.
Gokul Baskota, minister for communications and information technology, told the Post that the act was necessary “to promote and protect Nepali cinema and promote its healthy growth.”
“Every Saturday, all theaters should show Nepali movies,” Baskota said. “If anyone refuses to obey the law, the cinema hall will be shut down.”
Baskota was firm on the need for the new act, saying there was no excuse for not screening Nepali films.
“We are not banning foreign movies,” said Baskota. “Those interested can easily watch foreign movies for the rest of those six months.”
According to Chiranjivi Guragain, information and international relations officer at the Nepal Film Development Board, the act is being introduced to promote the Nepali film industry, which produces around a hundred films a year.
“Many Nepali films have suffered financially because they were removed from cinema halls after the release of big-budget foreign films,” Guragain told the Post. “For instance, Bulbul suffered greatly due to the screening of Gully Boy, and Jatrai Jatra due to the Salman Khan-starrer Bharat. Those were good Nepali films that did well financially but they could have done better had their schedules not clashed with foreign films.”
However, film producers and cinema hall operators are divided over this proposed law.
Akash Adhikari, chairperson of Film Producers’ Nepal, said that the implementation of the policy would be a “positive move” for Nepali cinema.
“Film industries around the world subsidise and prioritise their local output, which helps them grow. So the law would be beneficial for Nepali cinema as well,” Adhikari said.
But Nakim Uddin, producer and CEO of Team Quest which operates QFX Cinemas, said that the act would not benefit Nepali films in any way.
“Nepali films are in the hall for 365 days, there’s no doubt about it. A film’s screening is extended if it does good business,” Uddin told the Post. “Our producers don’t talk in terms of statistics. Nepal is a multicultural, multilingual country. Many people in the Tarai speak only Hindi and if there are only Nepali films in the halls, what would they watch?”
Uddin said that the cinema hall owners, primarily in the Tarai, would suffer most, as they could be compelled to shut down their halls if this policy was implemented.
The KP Sharma Oli administration has adopted a series of measures to control the media, social media, universities, imports, and even the national human rights commission. Many are concerned about the growing reach of the Oli government, which appears to be pushing itself into every facet of public life, including films.
The Nepali film industry is still regulated by the Motion Picture (Production, Exhibition and Distribution) Act, enacted in 1969 when less than half a dozen films were made a year. The film industry now produces about a hundred films each year but they’re being regulated by the same act, according to Guragain. The proposed new act will broadly regulate the film industry while also provisioning for the mandatory screening of Nepali films.