Toronto filmmaker bombarded with death threats gets her revenge
A Toronto filmmaker has finally had her latest film screened in the city after it spawned online bullying — the point of death threats against her — and calls that it be censored.
Leena Manimekalai's performance documentary Kaali, starring the filmmaker and York University grad student as the Hindu goddess of the same name (more often spelled Kali), was pulled this summer from a Toronto Metropolitan University's Under the Tent screening series focusing on multiculturalism.
I'm very much assured that you will not be beaheaded for this. 👍— Gaurav (@Moody_Gaurav_) July 3, 2022
The institution was responding to public outrage over a poster Manimekalai shared for the film that showed Kali smoking a cigarette and holding a pride flag, something some considered an affront to the figure and to Hinduism generally.
.@TorontoMet has chosen a cowardly path as per @humanisttoronto for censoring Leena Manimekalai's film, #Kaali. This censorship has led to death threats against this brave artist. @ottawahumanists are asking for an apology, compensation, and protection for Leena. #dignity— Jacqui Gingras (@GingrasRochelle) November 3, 2022
But, Manimekala was finally able to screen her film this Thursday evening — four months after the initial incident — at the originally planned location of the Aga Khan Museum, in collaboration with Toronto Metropolitan University, which backstepped from its initial decision.
At the protest and solidarity screening of Leena Manimekalai's incredible films Maadathy and Kaali yesterday. More power to the brilliant filmmaker and the brave organizers of the screening. pic.twitter.com/eBnT4hiAMo— Rakesh Sengupta (@Rakesh_Sengupta) November 4, 2022
The sold-outevent, which also featured another of the creative's films, was sponsored by the Centre for Free Expression, PEN Canada, the Poetic Justice Foundation and other champions of free speech and creative expression as a protest against censorship.
It’s been a season of amazing events! @LeenaManimekali’s protest screening of #Maadathy and #Kaali at @TorontoMet, the institution that disgracefully capitulated to the @IndianGovtt and boycotted Leena’s film. Hats off to those at TMU that organized the stellar protest screening! pic.twitter.com/UPUAMmjeTJ— Sunita Viswanath (@SunitaSunitaV) November 4, 2022
Along with finally getting to show her work to the public, Manimekala has also named artist-in-residence at the CFE at TMU.
While many are still enraged at the artist — who identifies as a queer feminist — and her chosen depiction of the goddess, she has said she "feels less alone now," while the TMU Centre for Free Expression has added that the attacks against her and the resulting pulling of her film were "wholly inappropriate."
"It's really important in the academic world to stand up to that attack on academic frreedom and artistic freedom," the centre's director said.
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