IFFK 2015 to feature seven films based on true stories

A still from the movie The Dark Horse
A still from the movie The Dark Horse
The 20th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), which began here yesterday, will feature seven movies in the category ‘Based on True Stories’ in the curated sections.
The movies Anton Chekov 1890, Bridgend, Carte Blanche, Tanna, The Dark Horse, The Truth, and The wolf Pack are based on real life stories. 
Anton Chekov 1890, Carte Blanche and The Dark Horse are biopics. Most of the movies have bagged awards at several international film festivals.
Anton Chekov 1890: The French movie, directed by René Féret, shows how a doctor/writer transforms into a reformer after shedding his celebrity status. The movie throws lights on the life of literary genius Anton Chekov, who was a doctor by profession. The film depicts how he started his writing career and what was the circumstance which led to his self-realisation.
Bridgend: Directed by Danish filmmaker Jeppy Ronde, this multi-award winning English movie revolves around the incidents that took place in the Bridgend County in South Wales. The movie tells the story of Sara and her dad Dave’s journey to Bridgend, It focuses on the relationship between vulnerable teenagers and their parents who are left in the dark to witness the mass suicidal trials.  The movie has bagged several awards including the Internatioanl Debut Award (Special Mention), Best Actress (Narrative Feature), Best Cinematography and Best Editing Award.
Carte Blanche: The Polish movie by filmmaker Jacek Lusinski narrates the story of a high school history teacher, Kacper who suffers from progressive sight loss. In spite of the darkness hovering over him, his positive mind drives his future life as a dedicated teacher.  The film, inspired by MaciejBia?ek who still teaches in a Lublin High School, has won jury awards in international film festivals.
Tanna: This debut movie of the acclaimed Australian documentary filmmakers Martin Butler and Bentley Dean is based on a tribal story in 1985. The movie is known for its visually captivating shots. Filmed on the remote island of Tanna in Vanuatu, this movie tells the story of Wawu, a young woman who fell in love with her chief’s grandson Dain. The movie shows the intensity of love, war and the struggle to shield the tribal tradition from the fast-paced change the world is facing. The cinematography of the movie has been adjudged best in the Venice Film Festival.
The Dark Horse: The New Zealand drama directed by James Napier Robertson is based on the life of charismatic chess champion Genesis Potini.  The emotionally- charged story is about finding the courage to lead, despite his own struggles. The protagonist suffers from bipolar disorder but, unnerved by circumstances, finds a meaning in life by passing in his knowledge to the children in his community. The movie has bagged numerous awards including Audience award, Best Narrative feature, best film and best film in international film festivals.    
The Truth: The American docu-drama directed by James Vanderbilt is based on the story of the news magazine’s investigation into George W. Bush’s alleged draft-dodging during the Vietnam War. Based on Mapes’ 2005 memoir, Truth and Duty, this directorial debut from screenwriter James Vanderbilt is a political thriller and an investigative-narrative about the dirty tricks in the US political system. The story is told through the investigation of a journalist along with her team to build a bullet-proof case.
The Wolf Pack: This American movie by Crystal Moselle throws light on six children’s homeschooling and their perception of the world. The story revolves around six brothers locked up in their apartment in Manhattan and how they get to know about the outside world through the movies they watch. The movie was adjudged the Best Documentary and Feature Film at Edinburgh International Film Festival.

20th IFFK takes off, Zakir Hussain mesmerises audience at opening ceremony

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy speaking at the inauguration of the 20th International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK 2015) in Thiruvananthapuram on December 4, 2015.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy speaking at the inauguration of the 20th International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK 2015) in Thiruvananthapuram on December 4, 2015.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy inaugurated the 20th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK 2015) at a glittering ceremony in the packed Nisagandhi auditorium here this evening.
“Denizens of the state get the opportunity to learn and understand about the varied cultures across the world through the prestigious platform of IFFK,” Mr. Chandy said.
The opening ceremony was presided over by Minister for Cinema, Forest, Environment, Transport, Sports Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan.
Minister for Tourism A.P Anil Kumar and Minister for Rural Development, Planning & Culture K.C. Joseph and Chief Secretary Jiji Thomson were also present.
Mr. Anil Kumar released a book ‘Best Movie Locations in Kerala' on the occasion. He said the temporary auditorium at Nishagandhi, which houses only 1500 delegates, will be renovated and expanded to accommodate 4000 delegates soon after this edition of festival.
Mr. Joseph released the festival book during the inaugural ceremony. IFFK International Jury Chairman Julio Bressane also spoke at the event.  
Tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain set the stage for one of the country’s most awaited arts events with a mesmerising performance. 
In his keynote address, he said Kerala’s richness in culture and heritage had always enticed him. “Moreover, I had the unique opportunity to perform along with a few of the legendary musical maestros from the state,” he said.
The IFFK’s ppening film, French director Jean-Jacques Annaud’s French-Chinese 3D film Wolf Totem (2015), was then screened.
Over the next week, about 180 movies from India and across the world will be screened at 13 venues in the state capital.
The inclusion of three additional venues this year, including the Nishagadhi auditorium with 1,500 seats, has enabled an increase in overall seating capacity by 3,200. Delegates will be able to reserve seats at any venue by SMS, online or through an on-site help desk.
Apart from the screenings, the festival features regular popular events such as the ‘Open Forum’, ‘Meet the Director’, ‘In Conversation’, ‘Master Class’, the Aravindan Memorial Lecture, panel discussions and seminars at Tagore Theatre and Mascot Hotel.

First-time feature directors find space at IFFK 2015

A still from My Skinny Sister
A still from My Skinny Sister
The debut features of several talented first-time directors will be showcased at the 20th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala beginning here this evening.
Folowing today's opening ceremony, nearly 180 movies from more than 60 countries will be screened over the next week at the festival.
The debut features will show in the ‘First Look’ segment of the prestigious festival, and include works from China, Europe, South America and Africa. Most of the films have been lauded on the festival circuit and some have picked up awards at some of the important international festivals.
The following are the highlights of the films to be screened in this section:
My Skinny Sister: This Swedish-German work by Sanna Lenken, which will show at Kairali on December 5 and Sree on December 6, is the story of protagonist Stella’s big sister Katja, who is hiding an eating disorder. The film considers with warmth and humour the impact that the problem makes on the family.
Kaili Blues: Gan Bi’s Chinese film, which won the Best Emerging Director at Locarno among other awards, will be screened at Dhanya on December 5 and in Remya on December 6. It is the story of lonely Dr Chen Sheng of the Kaili clinic who goes in search of his abandoned nephew.
The Thin Yellow Line: Also an award-winner, The Thin Yellow Line is Mexican director Celso R Garcia’s drama about five men who are hired to paint the median line of a 200 km road under the blazing sun. The film shows in New Screen 1 on December 7, Dhanya on December 8 and Remya on December 10.
Land and Shade: A film that picked up awards and special mentions at Cannes, Poland’s Tofi Fest and the Mumbai Film Festival among others, the Colombia-France-Netherlands collaboration Land and Shade by director Cesar Augusto Acevedo is the story of Alfonso, who comes home after nearly two decades, to discover that a lot has changed, including his family’s concern for him. The film will be screened at Dhanya on December 9 and Remya on December 10.
Lamb: A collaboraton between Ethiopia France-Germany-Norway-Qatar, Yared Zeleke’s film based in drought-ridden Ethiopia will be screened at Remya on December 8 and on December 9 in Dhanya and New Screen. Ephraim is a young shepherd and an excellent cook, who must save his sheep from being sacrificed at the next religious feast.
Hopefuls: Ives Rosenfeld’s Brazilian film, which picked up awards at Locarno and the Rio de Janeiro Film for its director and actors, will show at New Screen 3 on December 5, Remya on December 8 and New Screen 1 on December 9. It is the story of a young footballer who sacrifices his career for his pregnant girlfriend, and burns up with jealousy when his friend signs a contract with a professional team.
600 Miles: The Mexican-American film by director Gabriel Ripstei looks at the unlikely eventual companionship between a young Mexican gun trafficker and an American law enforcement agent, who start out as enemies. The film will be screen at Sree Kumar on December 5 and Tagore on December 7.

Treat awaits cineastes at Kerala film fest beginning on Friday

A veritable feast has been laid out for cinema lovers at the 20th  International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) beginning here tomorrow, with the organisers, Chalachitra Academy, drawing up a carefully curated list of movies from across the world.
The films are categorised into International Competition, World Cinema (featuring films released in 2014-15), 3DX, Jury Films, Malayalam Cinema Today, First Look, Korean Panorama, Restored Classics, Indian Cinema Now, Women Power, Contemporary Master in Focus, Retrospective, Country Focus (Lithuania and Myanmar) and Based on True Story. 
Some ‘not to be missed’ Oscar aspirants that figure in ‘World Cinema’ on the IFFK schedule include Chilean film The Club by Pablo Larrain, Croat-Serbian Dalibor Matanic flick The High Sun, Turkey-France-German collaboration by Deniz Gamze Erguven Mustang, Icelandic Rams by Grimur Hakonarson, Hou Hsiao­Hsien’s Taiwan-­China-­Hong Kong film Assassin, Pakistan’s Moor by Jamshed Mahmood Raza, German film Victoria by Sebastian Schipper, Masaharu Take’s Japanese 100 Yen Love and German-Iraqi film Memories on Stone by Shawkat Amin Korki.
Other important films included in the World Cinema list, which will be screened across the 13 festival venues, include Spanish-French film by director Carlos Vermut, Magical Girl; Malgorzata Szumowska’s Polish film Body; Brazil-Uruguay-Netherlands film Neon Bull by Gabriel Mascaro; Robert Geudiguian’s French flick Don't Tell me the Boy was Mad; Bulgarian-Greek film by Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov, The Lesson; Palestine-France-Qatar collaboration by Arab Nasser and Tarzan Nasser, Degrade; France film Dheepan by Jacques Audriard; Fatima by Philippe Faucon from France; Portugal-France film Montanha by Joao Salaviza; France-Belgium collaboration by Laurent LariviereI am a Soldier, Turkish Secret by Selim Evci; Brazil-Chile-France film Absence by Chico Teixeira; Not my Day, a German film by Peter Thorwarth; and Sri Lankan film Dirty, Yellow, Darkness by Kalpana Ariyawansa and Vindana Ariyawansa.
Also on the cards are Italy-France film A Bigger Splash by Luca Guadagnino; Palestinian true story The Idol by Hany Abu-Assad; Majid Barzegar’s Iran-­Czech film A Very Ordinary Citizen; Filip Bajon’s Polish film Damaged; Jafar Panahi’s Iranian film Taxi;  Lorenzo Vigas’s Venezuela-­Mexican film From Afar; Russian film The Lower Depth by Vladimir Kott; Ciro Guerra’s Colombia- Venezuela­-Argentina film Embrace of the Serpent; Pierre Jolivet’s French film The Night Watchman; US filmTangerine by Sean Baker; Santiago Mitre’s Argentina-­Brazil-­France film Paulina; Rúnar Rúnarsson's Iceland-­Denmark-­Croatia film Sparrows and Özcan Alper's Turkey-­Germany-­France-­Georgian collaboration Memories of the Wind.
A Homage to Malayali director-cinematographer, the late A. Vincent, fondly called Vincent Master, will be marked with the screening of his two landmark films at Sree. His Bhargavi Nilayam (1964) will screen on December 7 and Murappennu (1965) on the next day.
Restored classics to watch out for in New Screen 3 include John Abraham’s Amma Ariyan(1986), Mrinal Sen’s Oko Oori Katha(1977), Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Mathilukal (1987), Jabbar Patel’s Jait Re Jait (1977) and Guru Dutt’s Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959).
The Contemporary Master in Focus at the festival is French filmmaker Tony Gatlif, whose films feature society’s marginalised people. His Gadjo Dilo (1997), Je suis né d'une cigogne (1998), Swing (2001), Exils (2004) and Transylvania (2006) will be screened at New Screen 2 and 3.
Another highlight is the screening of International Jury chairman Julio Bressane’s 2015 film Kid (Garoto) at the New Screen 3 on December 5. The 2015 Brazilian film depicts the spiritual adventure of a young couple in an enchanted place.

IFFK to showcase three movies of jury members

The 20th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), beginning here on December 4, will feature three movies by jury members in the ‘Jury Films’ category.
The line-up includes international jury chairman Julio Bressane’s Portuguese-language film Garoto (Kid), Ezra by Nigerian director Newton I. Aduaka and Ajeyo (Invincible) by Assamese filmmaker Jahnu Barua.
Bressane took inspiration from literary giant Jorge Luis Borges’ story The Disinterested Killer Bill Harrigan for Garoto, which traces a young couple’s experiences with sexuality and spirituality in a fantastical place where the only other sign of life is a compelling percussive drone. The ups and downs of this post-utopian Adam and Eve story and the darker energies of their world drive a narrative that is quintessential Bressane. The Brazilian auteur’s movie was screened at this year’s Locarno International Film Festival.   
In Ezra (2007), Aduaka trains his lens on the civil conflict in Sierra Leone – presenting its horrors through a frenzied drug-fuelled attack on a village. The events of the night are reconstructed from the testimonies of three witnesses: Ezra and Cynthia, former child soldiers and Ezra’s mute sister Onitcha. It is poignant commentary on the lives of child soldiers, of whom an estimated 3,00,000 were said to be engaged in various armed conflicts around the world at the turn of the millennium. Some 1,20,000 of these children were allegedly combatants in African conflicts.
Barua’s Ajeyo (2014) chronicles the journey of a small village on the north bank of the Brahmaputra in Assam from the heady days immediately before and after Independence to the decades of gloom that followed. Based on the Sahitya Akademi Award-winning novel Ashirbador Rong (The Hues of Blessing) by Assamese litterateur Arun Sharma, the film is a mood mirror to the personal story of its protagonist, a passionate young revolutionary fighting against social injustice who eventually trades in his idealism for pragmatism and then bitter pessimism.

Kerala film fest to feature 20 movies handpicked by Shaji Karun

The 20th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), to be held here from December 4-11, will feature 20 movies that have been handpicked by renowned director and chairman of IFFK 2015 advisory committee Shaji N. Karun.  
The films have been compiled into three categories: ‘First Look’ featuring debutant filmmakers from around the world, ‘Women Power’ on stories told from the point of view of women and ‘Based on True Stories’, which are movie adaptations of real-life people and events.  
“We were looking for movies that followed their own unique aesthetics and ways to tell their stories,” the National Award-winning director said. “The movies selected connect with the heart first, and then go in for cerebral processing.”
With ‘First Look’, Karun envisioned a category that conceptualised how “the idea of new generation movies is conceived among global film fraternity”. “We carry around wrong notions about ‘new generation’ films and filmmakers. The term doesn’t encompass everything that is new or is made by young directors.”
“This category aims to create a reference point for our society to relate their idea of new generation films against how it’s understood elsewhere,” he said. In choosing the seven films in this category, emphasis was laid given to the directors’ selection and treatment of subjects in their first ventures and their takes on contemporary issues. This helped offset the technical handicaps some directors faced.
“I’ve seen some internationally acclaimed movies made only with a mobile camera. It is the creative expressions that the filmmaker imparts in those works that make them unique. Some of the movies have been under consideration for the Oscars or been highly rated and won prestigious awards at a number of international film festivals – even overshadowing established film makers.”
The ‘Women Power’ section was created to juxtapose the traditional patriarchal structures and biases against life through a woman’s eye. The seven films in this section – not all by women filmmakers – dwell on the female psyche.
“Women the world over are, in a way, caretakers of humanity. The labours they undertake to stitch family bonds together, the delicate care they give to provide for and sustain crucial social structures are vital. And all the more remarkable considering women are among the most vulnerable groups in our society.
“The films in this category address their universal pain, the importance of family and its bonds and also explore the lives of women from different cultural milieus all over the world," Karun said.
In the ‘True Story’ category are six movies that have followed the adage that ‘truth is sometimes stranger than fiction’.
“Each has basis in real life events and experiences – which are narrated through visual expressions. It just shows that real-life incidents can be more dramatic than those thought-up," he said.
While Karun noted that the section and genre “may get classified as docu-fiction”, he said that “more the drama of a real-life incident, the creative energy used to identify a movie from that real-life experience is what I considered important while selecting movies for this category."
The common thread to each sub-category is “identification of the humanness with its pleasure and pain by filmmakers around the world,” Karun added. “Their choice of visualisation – the sequence between yelling ‘action’ and ‘cut’ – was the prime consideration while selecting the movies.”
The following are the movies:
First Look Section
600 Millas (600 Miles) direction & screenplay by Gabriel Ripstein
Aspirantes (Hopefuls) direction & screenplay by Ives Rosenfeld
Lu bian ye can (Kaili Blues) direction & screenplay by Bi Gan
Lamb direction & screenplay by Yared Zeleke
La Tierra y la Sombra (Land and Shade) direction & screenplay by Cesar Augusto Acevedo
Min Lilla Syster (My Skinny Sister) direction & screenplay by Sanna Lenken
La delgada linea amarilla (The Thin Yellow Line) direction & screenplay by Celso Garcia
Women Power
Dap canh giua khong trung (Flapping in the Middle of Nowhere) direction & screenplay by Diep Hoang Nguyen
Ixcanul direction & screenplay by Jayro Bustamante
Mate-me por favour (Kill Me Please) direction & screenplay by Anita Rocha da Silveira
Mia Madre (My Mother) direction & screenplay by Nanni Moretti
Que Horas Ela Volta? (The Second Mother) direction & screenplay by Anna Muylaert
Umimachi Diary (Our Little Sister) direction by Hirokazu Kore-eda
Sangailes Vasara (The Summer of Sangaile) direction by Alante Kavaite
Based on True Story
Anton Tchekhov 1890 direction, screenplay & production Rene Feret
Tanna direction by Bentley Dean, Martin Butler
The Dark Horse direction & screenplay by James Napier Robertson
Truth direction & screenplay by James Vanderbilt
The Wolf Pack direction by Crystal Moselle
Bridgend direction by Jeppe Ronde

Kerala film fest IFFK to feature retrospective on Tony Gatlif

Tony Gatlif
Tony Gatlif
The 20th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), to be held here from December 4-11, will explore the fiercely emotive oeuvre of French filmmaker Tony Gatlif through a retrospective of his selected works.
The movies that will be screened in the ‘Contemporary Master’ category are Gadjo Dilo (1997), Je suis né d'une cigogne (1998), Swing(2001), Exils (2004) and Transylvania (2006).
Gatlif’s muses are the world’s outcasts and dehumanised – from the denizens of Parisian ghettos, to exiles and immigrants far from home and, closest to his heart, the Romany people (better known through the politically charged exonym ‘Gypsies’). The lives, trials and traditions of the nomadic Roma – from whom he is partially descended – are a regular feature.  
In Gadjo Dilo (Crazy Gadjo), Gatlif has the companion piece to his magnum opus – Latcho Drom, the 1992 lyrical tribute to Roma music in which he traced its journey from Rajasthan to Romania, Hungary and the Mediterranean. In Gadjo Dilo, he follows an outsider who enters the Roma world in search of a melody.
His next feature Je suis né d'une cigogne (Children of the Stork) deals with themes of displacement and searches for sparks of humanity and humour in the face of even the most trying circumstances. That an actual stork embodies victimhood and loss lends both absurdity and poignancy.
Swing returns to the Roma, this time in Western Europe, and their Manouche jazz musical tradition. The bond between two children – one of the caravan and the other of the city – during a summer vacation is one of the many delights on offer. Exuberant melodies again set the tune and mood to which the characters sway.
With Exils, Gatlif retrains his eye on the bonds of music and dance that binds disparate cultures bound together. This time, he goes back to his own roots in Algeria, tracking two committed bohemians whose road trip to their native land becomes a spiritual expedition.
Another personal journey – this time for love – is at the core of Transylvania. A woman’s romantic quest through the Gothic heart of Romania to find the man she loves and another chance at happiness. The wilful loss of identity and redemption are key themes here.
The selected films showcase Gatlif’s motif of worlds within worlds, of people within peoples. They offer a taste of life – shorn of broad brushes and labels – on the margins, in the niches and nooks, with its heartbeats and drumbeats.
Each film is at once revelry of life and rebellious polemic against modernity’s conformism.

Kerala Cabinet okays draft Malayalam Language Bill

The Kerala Cabinet on Wednesay approved the final draft Malayalam Language Bill that aims to make Malayalam the official language of the state and to expand its reach and enrich it.
The Cabinet gave its approval for the Bill after holding extensive discussions and preparations, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told journalists.
As per the Kerala Official Languages Act, Malayalam and English are the official languages of the State. 
The Bill seeks to give shape to a comprehensive Malayalam language law. A memorandum in this regard was initially given to the Law department. The draft bill prepared by the department was vetted by a committee comprising Perumpadavom Sreedharan, R Gopalakrishnan, M R Thampan and former chief secretary K Jayakumar. 
Following this, an amended Bill was submitted by the Law department, after taking into account the inputs received from the departments of General Education, Higher Education and Registrar of High Court. Part three of the Bill was amended by the Law department after obtaining the consent of the Chief Minister and later presented for the Cabinet's approval, an official press release said.
Earlier, the need for a comprehensive official language law was put before the government by the Legislative committee dealing with the subject. The high-level committee headed by the Chief Minister had also taken a decision in favour of that, the release added.

Kerala Cabinet decides to set up NRI Commission

The Kerala Cabinet on Wednesday decided to set up a Non-Resident Indians (NRI) Commission with quasi-judicial powers to protect the rights, interests and properties of NRIs from the state.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told reporters here yesterday that the Commission would also interact with State and Central Governments for protecting NRIs' interests, prevent fake overseas recruitments and take up issues of inappropriate actions against NRIs in foreign countries.
"The objectives of the Commission are to ensure that the NRIs, without any discrimination, receive the services of various government departments and agencies that have different guidelines and laws for functioning and to make sure that issues pertaining to the lives of NRIs are given equal consideration," he said.
The decision to set up the NRI Commission was announced at the 2015 Global Non-Resident Keralites (NRK) earlier this year. It was also part of the policy announcements made by the Governor in March 2015.
The Chairman of the commission will be a retired High Court judge. A retired IAS officer and two NRIs will be its members. A person of joint secretary's rank will be the secretary. 
The Commission will be based in Thiruvananthapuram and will have a sitting once in thee months.
The Commission can initiate an inquiry on its own, based on complaints received by it and based on the request of the government. The Commission can submit its report to the government with recommendations for action, an official press release added.

Kerala Finance Minister K M Mani resigns following adverse remarks by HC

Kerala Finance Minister K M Mani tenders resignation
Kerala Finance Minister K. M. Mani announced his decision to resign from the State Council of Ministers in the wake of mounting pressure on him to quit following adverse remarks made against him by the Kerala High Court.
"As a sign of my respect for the rule of law, I am resigning as a Minister," Mr. Mani told journalists here tonight after a marathon meeting of his Kerala Congress (M) leadership.
"I will send my resignation letter to the Chief Minister. I am grateful to the Chief Minister and my colleagues for the support to me. I will continue to give unreserved support to the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the government," he said.
State Government Chief Whip Thomas Unniyadan also announced he was resigning in solidarity with Mr. Mani.
The resignation came amidst a growing clamour for Mr. Mani to step down after the High Court questioned his continuation in office at a time when a vigilance inquiry was on against him in the bar bribery case.
The allegation against Mr. Mani was that he had taken a bribe from bar owners to facilitate bars which had been closed down as part of a policy decision taken by the UDF government.
Though Mr. Mani appeared to be in no mood to give in to such demands, he was left with little choice when the Congress made it obvious that he would have to go and the other constituents of the UDF agreed with it.
Mr. Mani told journalists that he had already stated yesterday that he would make his stand known after a meeting of the steering committee of his Kerala Congress (Mani) today.
He said he had informed the meeting of his decision to resign and got the party's consent to send in his papers.
Mr. Mani, 82, said he had already consulted Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in the matter.
The Kerala Congress (M) has eight members in the Kerala Legislative Assembly, where the Chandy government has a slender majority of just four in the 140-member house. Mr Mani has been a member of the assembly without a break since 1965.

Brazilian filmmaker Julio Bressanne to head jury at Kerala filmfest

Well-known Brazilian filmmaker Julio Bressane will head the five-member core jury for the 20th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) to be held here from December 4-11.
The other members of the jury for Kerala’s premier film festival are Moussinin Abza, Nadia Dresti, Maxin Williams and Jahnu Baruah, a press release from the Chalachitra Academy, the organisers of the event, said here today.
A core committee, appointed by the state government along with a Technical Committee headed by filmmaker Shaji N Karun, also announced two other jury boards for the smooth functioning of the festival.  Derek Malcom and Latika Padgongar are members of the Fipresci (international federation of film critics) Jury. 
The Netpac (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) Jury consists of Siddique Marbak, Swarna Malvarchi and Meenakshi Shedde.
The core organizing committee meeting here here yesterday also hammered out the details of delegate registration and improved infrastructure facilities.
Delegate registration for the 20th IFFK will start from November 5 and will be available at a price of Rs 500, which is the same as last year. Students can avail the delegate passes at a subsidized rate of Rs 300. Two public venues are also being transformed for public screenings. A total of 180 movies will be screened in this year’s IFFK.
The meeting also decided to implement plans to make this year’s IFFK a grand event in all aspects. Besides increasing the number of theatres and their seating capacity, Nishagandhi is being  transformed into a temporary fully air-conditioned theatre with a seating capacity of 3000. Other theatres participating in the festival and their seating capacity are: Sreekumar (1000), Sreevisakh (700), Dhanya (700), Remya (700), Tagore Theatre (900), Kairali (440), Sree (300), Nila (260), Kalabhavan (410), New Screen1 (520), Screen 2 (200) and Screen 3 (200).
The main attraction this year’s IFFK will be the acquisition of two public spaces for the screening of censored movies, said Festival Chairman Karun. While Manaveeyam veedhi has been selected as a venue for screening censored movies, plans to take over the basket ball court of Central Stadium to screen special movie packages, with a seating capacity for a thousand people, are also in the final stages.
More than 80 foreign films will feature in this year’s festival. The participating movies are classified into ten categories: International Competition Section (14), Malayalam Cinema (7), Indian Cinema (7), Country Focus (Lithuania, Myanmar) (8), World cinema (80), Contemporary Masters (7), Tribute to Vincent Master (3), Retro International (10), Jury Films/Lifetime Achievements (10), and Public Screening (7).
Further, 20 movies will be screened as a special package coming under the categories 3-D, True Story, Women’s Side and New Directors , with five movies included in each section.
A jury board, comprising Malayalam film director Kamal, Malti Sahai and K R Mohan, was assigned the task of selecting movies for this year’s festival. Foreign programmers will lend help to Chalachitra Acdemy for the functioning of this year’s IFFK.

Trafalgar Square beats to 'chenda' in 'Visit Kerala' London Campaign

A view of the cultural events organized by Kerala Tourism at the  Mayor of London Event in Trafalgar Square in London on October 11, 2015.
A view of the cultural events organized by Kerala Tourism at the Mayor of London Event in Trafalgar Square in London on October 11, 2015.
The famed Trafalgar Square here reverberated with the beats of 'chenda' and movements of 'Kathakali' performers as 'God's Own Country' sought to capture the hearts of visitors to the 'Mayor of London' event in the British capital.
Thousands of people thronged the London landmark visited by tourists from around the world to witness a series of traditional music, dance and martial arts performances organised by Kerala Tourism.
"The Trafalgar Square presented a grand stage to introduce the cultural diversity of our state to the people of the United Kingdom and visitors from the rest of the world," said Kerala Tourism Minister A P Anilkumar.
"Our objective is to present the 'Best of Kerala', its natural beauty and rich culture and heritage, to our distinguished visitors from around the world so that we can contribute to the development of our state and empowerment of our communities," he said.
Kerala Chief Secretary Jiji Thomson introduced the cultural extravaganza to the audience at a function attended by the Deputy Mayor of London, Mr Roger Evans. The event was held in collaboration with the Indian diaspora's 'Diwali in London' committee. Kerala Tourism Secretary G Kamala Vardhana Rao was also present on the occasion.
"Kerala is a top destination on the world tourism map because of the harmony between our land and culture as seen in the beautiful backwaters, majestic hills or calm countrysides in the state," Mr. Thomson said after the event, which also had cultural presentations like 'Garba' and 'Bhangra' dances, fusion, Bollywood songs and performances by Indian children.
The Kerala cultural presentation included 'Chendamelam', 'Thiruvathirakali' and a 'Bharathanatyam-Mohiniyattom - Kathakali fusion. Another attraction was a 'Kerala Nadanam' classical dance fusion.
The Chief Secretary, who called upon the large Indian community in London to invest in the tourism sector in Kerala, said:  "Investing in Kerala's tourism sector is being part of the mission to save nature and the planet as we are the world leaders in practising sustainable and responsible tourism."
Britain is the biggest tourism market for Kerala. As many as 151,497 travellers from the United Kingdom visited the state last year. 
The Kerala delegation also met with prominent tour operators and top media persons in London to promote the 'Visit Kerala' campaign.
"The tens of thousands of visitors at the 'Mayor of London' event were happy to learn more about Kerala," said Mr. Rao. 
"We are confident of a major increase in foreign tourist arrivals in the state during the 'Visit Kerala' year and beyond," he said.
While the 'Thiruvathirakali' and 'Kerala Nadanam' were presented by the Chitra Lakshmi and team, Vinod Navathara and team performed 'Chendamelam' and the 'Mohiniyattom-Bharathanatyam-Kathakali’ fusion was performed by Vinod Nair.
Launched in April this year in New Delhi by Union Tourism Minister  Mahesh Sharma and Mr. Anilkumar, the 'Visit Kerala' campaign, which will run until April next year, brings together a variety of tourism products, presenting a unique opportunity for a 'once-in-a-lifetime' experience in 'God's Own Country'.
Kerala Tourism will also participate in the World Travel Mart (WTM) in London, which will be held during November 2-5. 

K. Satchidanandan quits Akademi posts, Sara Joseph to return award

K. Satchidanandan
K. Satchidanandan
Noted Malayalam writers such as poet K. Satchidanandan and femist author Sara Joseph today joined the protests by littérateurs around the country against the growing intolerance in the country by announcing their decisions to quit their positions in the Sahitya Akademi and return their awards.
Their decision came close on the heels of the announcement by well-known writer Nayantara Sehgal and poet Ashok Vajpeyi, who returned their prestigious Sahitya Akademi Awards earlier this week in protest against the "assault" on the country's culture of diversity and debate.
Yesterday, novelist Shashi Deshpande sent in her resignation from the Akademi's General Council, saying she was "deeply distressed" by its silence on the murder of renowned Kannada writer and rationalist M M Kalburgi and "disappointed" by its failure to stand up for its community of writers and scholars,
Earlier, well-known Hindi writer Uday Prakash had returned his Sahitya Akademi Award for the same reason. 
Ms Joseph, 69, announced in Thrissur that she had decided to return the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Rs 50,000 purse she had received in 2003 for her novel Alaahayude Penmakkal.
“The tide of intolerance has risen to such a level that individuals do not have the freedom to eat what they like or to love a person of their choice,” she said.
"There is a very scary situation being created in the country. It is my responsibility as an author to react on the issue," she said.
"I was honoured to receive the prestigious award. But now I feel we the writers have a role to play in the way things are going on in our country. So as a matter of protest, I will return the award along with the cash award that I received then," she said.
Prof. Satchidanandan told newspersons he was resigning from the General Council and all other committees of the Akademi because it had failed to stand with the writers and uphold the freedom of expression.
Literary critic K.S. Ravikumar, member of the General Council, also told journalists that he had decided to send in his resignation.
Sara Joseph. Photo: Malayalam language Wikipedia
Sara Joseph. Photo: Malayalam language Wikipedia
"I am sorry to observe that the Akademi has failed in its duty to stand with the writers and to uphold the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution of India that seems to be getting violated every day in the country," Prof. Satchidanandan, 69, said in his letter to the Akademi, India's national academy of letters.
"Holding a ritual condolence meeting in a regional office, as the Akademi seems to have done, is hardly an adequate response to the recent attacks on the freedom of expression followed by a series of murders of independent thinkers in different parts of the country. I am sorry to find that you think this is a political issue while to writers like me it is an issue of our basic freedom to live , think and write . Annihilation should never be allowed to replace argument that is the very essence of democracy.
"I thank the Akademi for all that it has given me in response to the many years of service I have given it; but as a concerned citizen and writer my conscience does not permit me to continue on its General Council and its Executive Board. I hereby abdicate all my positions in the Sahitya Akademi including the membership of its several committees," he added.

Kerala Tourism invites entries for International Photo Contest

Kerala Tourism has launched an ‘International Photography Contest’ through its website, calling for entries that would highlight the state’s tourism potential.
The competition, that began on September 24 with the theme ‘Kerala’, will have Rs 5 lakh as the top prize.
The second and third prizes will be Rs 3 lakh and Rs 2 lakh, respectively, a press release from Kerala Tourism said. There will be five consolation prizes of Rs 1 lakh each.
“It’s for the first time we are coming out with a contest endowed with such huge amounts as prize money,” said Kerala Tourism Minister A P Anil Kumar.
Each contestant can send in a maximum of three entries. The photographs should be original and taken between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2015; the participant should hold its copyright. 
Digitally manipulated photographs will be disqualified. The submissions must have at least 1000 pixels but not more than 3000 pixels in either height or width. They should be saved as Jpegs (.jpg), and not exceed 4MB per file, at 72dpi resolution. The selected images, which will depict Kerala in multiple perspectives, will be added to Kerala tourism’s image bank.
"Kerala, known for its varied topography and colourful festivals, has always served as a photographer’s paradise. Considered as one of the countries with the highest brand recall, the tropical and green southern Indian state has already made its mark in the international tourism map," the release said.
“This competition that attracts participants from across the globe will further expand the state’s tourism market and encourage more visitors to explore our land,” said Kerala Tourism Secretary G. Kamala Vardhana Rao.
Kerala Tourism Director P I Sheik Pareeth noted that nearly one crore people visit the state every year on holiday. "Of these, many are photography enthusiasts," he added.
The competition that ends on December 31st will give visitors to the Kerala Tourism website an opportunity to submit their ratings on the competing photographs.
Participants can avail further details here

Kerala Tourism offers holiday packages in online bid war

Kerala Tourism has launched an online bidding game offering holiday packages to the state and the winners will be those who bid the lowest prices.
First-ever in the country for a destination, 'Visit Kerala Bid Wars' will be played out on the popular Facebook page of Kerala Tourism.
The bid, joined by accredited tour operators in the state, will include packages from Rs 8,000 to Rs 78,000.
Aimed at domestic travellers, it is organised as part of the 'Visit Kerala 2015' campaign inaugurated by Kerala Tourism Minister A P Anilkumar in the national capital in April.
"Kerala Tourism enjoys round-the-year engagement with our huge fan base across the world," said Kerala Tourism Secretary G Kamala Vardhana Rao. "This bidding process is a unique way to acknowledge the bond with each other," he added.
"It will also help us continue our association with our fans by providing an opportunity to gain first-hand experience of being in the place they love," Mr. Rao said.
The campaign will be anchored on an online bidding system known popularly as the 'lowest unique bid'. In this bidding system, the package, which is up for bidding, is won by the person whose bid is the lowest as well as unique. If two people bid the same price, that amount will get cancelled. For example, if a person bids for a package worth Rs 20,000 at Rs 10, the package will be awarded to her if nobody else has bid Rs 10 and no other unique bid is made which is less than Rs 10.
Kerala Tourism, which has more than 1.2 million fans on Facebook, is a pioneer in using information technology to spread awareness about the state's destinations. The tourism department's website, one of the most popular tourism websites in the world, has won several national and international tourism awards.
"The online bidding not only carries forward the conversation with our fans, but also takes it to the next level," said Kerala Tourism Director P I Sheik Pareeth.
"The opportunity for our fans to spend a peaceful day on a houseboat in the famed backwaters or stroll in the picturesque tea hills of Munnar will go a long way in consolidating our association with them," he said.
For making the bidding a success, Kerala Tourism has partnered with accredited service providers from the state such as Kerala Tourism Development Corporation, Voyages Kerala, Intersight Holidays, Spice Land Holidays, Cosima Holidays, Dravidian Trails, Indus Holidays, Kerala Travels and Travel Planners. The packages range from two nights to 10 days.
The bidding will happen for one package at a time. The details of the package and its worth will be available on the Facebook app.
Kerala Bid Wars will takes place on the official Facebook page of Kerala Tourism ( An android app titled “VisitKerala BidWars” which is available on Google Play Store ( can also be used to take part in the bidding.
The bidding process begins with signing up on Kerala Bid Wars Facebook App or downloading the VisitKerala BidWars app from Play Store. 
The bid will be active for a few days initially. The winner will be announced for each package soon after it ends and before the next package is put up for bidding.

Kovalam beach tragedy: One body found, four persons missing

File photo of the lighthouse beach at Kovalam. Photo: Courtesy: Kerala Tourism
File photo of the lighthouse beach at Kovalam. Photo: Courtesy: Kerala Tourism
The body of one person from a group of five who were reported missing after they went for a swim near the Kovalam Lighthouse Beach yesterday evening near here, has been recovered, police said.
Police officials said a search was going on for the other four. All five belonged to Thiruvananthapuram district, and four of them had gone to Kovalam as part of one group while the fifth belonged to another group, they said.
Personnel of the Coastal Police department and the Marine Enforcement Wing as well as local fishermen are involved in the search operations, sources said.
Local media reports quoted onlookers as saying that the five did not heed warnings that it was extremely risky to go swimming in that area after dusk.
The police said the five reported missing late in the evening and one body was recovered last night.

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Kerala Tourism’s Muziris Heritage Project wins PATA Gold Award

A view of the Muziris Heritage Museum
A view of the Muziris Heritage Museum
Kerala Tourism has bagged this year’s prestigious Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Award in the 'Heritage & Culture’ category for its Muziris Heritage Project.
The award, sponsored by the Macau Government Tourism Office (MGTO), was bestowed on the Muziris Heritage Project for its conservational aspect, uniqueness and impact on local community.
"This award is recognition of the Muziris project, aimed at restoring the historical and cultural significance of the ancient town that stretches across North Paravur in Ernakulam to Kodungalloor in Thrissur,” said Kerala Tourism Minister A P Anilkumar. 
"The flagship project of government of Kerala is one of the biggest heritage conservation projects of modern India," he added.
Supported and sponsored by MGTO for the last 20 years, this year’s PATA Grand and Gold Awards recognise the achievements of 25 separate organisations and individuals.
“Being a part of the Spice Route Project, which is supported by UNESCO, the Muziris project already has a key status in the cultural tourism map," said Kerala Tourism Secretary G Kamala Vardhana Rao. The award further highlights its prominence in international heritage tourism, he added.
There were 269 entries from 83 organisations and individuals worldwide for this year's award, the highest number since 2007. The awards will be presented on September 8 at PATA Travel Mart at Bangalore. Over 800 industry executives will attend the award ceremony.
"The list of PATA Gold Awards 2015 winners unveils once again the very best of Pacific-Asia tourism practices," said MGTO Director  Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes. She added that the excellence and innovation revealed by the works and projects awarded are impressive and can provide inspiration to raise the standards of tourism industry stakeholders in the region.
Noting that no other tourism department in the country could win this much-admired award this time, Kerala Tourism Director P I Sheik Pareeth  said the PATA award acknowledged Kerala Tourism’s excellence in heritage conservation.
PATA had honoured Kerala Tourism for the Responsible Tourism initiative in Kumarakom and Kerala Tourism's popular e-Newsletter in 2014.
Founded in 1951, the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) is a not-for profit association which acts as a catalyst for the responsible development of travel and tourism to, from and within the Asia Pacific region.

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Adani Ports receives Letter of Award for Vizhinjam Port Project in Kerala

Adani Ports & Special Economic Zone Ltd (APSEZ), India’s largest port developer and part of the Adani Group, today said it had received “Letter of Award” for development of the Vizhinjam International Deepwater Seaport Project from the Government of Kerala (GoK).
"We had keenly participated in this tender to ensure that Kerala gets its first deep water multi-cargo port and India gets its first deep water transshipment port which has been missing till date," a press release from the company said.
At present approximately 1.0 Million TEUs of Indian cargo is getting transshipped through foreign ports like Colombo. 
"Development of Vizhinjam port will help in cost saving to Indian trade as the boxes can be transshipped at a lower cost from Vizhinjam port," it said.
“We are very happy to be a part of this prestigious project. We acknowledge the support of Government of Kerala to develop this deep water multi-cargo port in the country. It is a strategic location being very close to international shipping route and has the potential to become the biggest transshipment hub in the region. This project makes us take one more step towards nation building committing ourselves to the development of state of Kerala. This is indeed a very proud moment for us,” said Mr. Gautam Adani, Chairman, Adani Group.
The total project cost, as estimated by GoK is  Rs 4089 crore and the time-frame for commissioning of the project is four years.
The proposed port at Vizhinjam is located 16 kms south of Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital. The site is on the international shipping route connecting Europe, the Gulf and the Far East, very close to the east-west shipping axis within 10 nautical miles.
APSEZ also operates ports in Mundra, Hazira, Tuna-Tekra (Kandla) and Dahej, in Gujarat, Dhamra in Odisha and operates specialized coal handling facilities in Mormugao in Goa, Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. It is currently setting up a container terminal in Ennore in Tamil Nadu.

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Kerala govt. to implement scheme to ensure Rs 150/kg for rubber to small farmers

The Kerala government has decided to implement a project that will utilize the price stability fund of Rs 300 crore and ensure that small farmers get a minimum price of Rs 150 per kg for rubber.
The price stability fund had been announced in the state budget for this year with the aim of giving relief to rubber farmers.
The decision was taken at a meeting attended here yesterday by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Finance Minister K M Mani with a sub-committee set up for the purpose.
Agriculture organizations have announced their total support for the project, an official press release said.
The release said orders regarding the scheme would be issued today. Rubber Marketing Societies, Rubber Marketing Federations, Market Fed and Rubber Production Units will also be members of the project, it said.
The farmers who register in the project, that will be jointly implemented by the State Government and the Rubber Board, will get the difference in the market price of rubber published every day and the Rs 150 for a kg of rubber as announced by the Government as subsidy through banks. 
With this, a minimum of Rs 150 can be ensured. Around 10 lakh farmers would get the benefit. This would bring in a new vigor in the rubber farming industry, the release said.
According to the release, RSS-4, RSS-5, Latex except scrap will get subsidy. With this 1 lakh tonnes of rubber can be procured, it said.
Farmers having less than five hectares of farm land can register their names in the project. Subsidy will be given for a maximum of two hectares having rubber cultivation. A maximum of 1800 kg for a hectare will get the benefit.  As per Rubber Board, the production in a hectare of land is 1800kg of rubber. 
"With this, the major chunk of amount set aside in the budget can be utilized for helping the small scale farmers. The farm lands that are registered as companies are exempted from the scheme. Farmer should register in the nearest rubber production unit. Subsidy would be provided on the basis of the report submitted by the field officer. The amount will be credited to the account of the farmers once in every two weeks. For this extensive computer software facility has been arranged," the release added.

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Kerala: More than 76.3% votes cast in Aruvikkara bye-election

More than 76.3 per cent of the 1.85 lakh voters exercised their franchise in the bye-election to fill the Aruvikkara seat in the Kerala Legislative Assembly today, official sources said.
Voting began at 7 am and ended at 5 pm. Voters were seen queueing up at polling booths in several parts of the constituency right from early morning, despite rains, and there were many still waiting to cast their votes at the scheduled end of polling.
Election officials said 76.31 percent voting had been registered as of 6 pm, and the final figures could be slightly higher. Polling was peaceful, with no major untoward incident reported from anywhere.
The vacancy arose due to the death of then Speaker and former State Minister G Karthikeyan of the Congress on March 7 this year.
With the term of the present assembly due to end in about a year, the bye-election was seen as a crucial test for both the ruling Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF).
The UDF had nominated Karthikeyan's son, K S Sabarinath as its candidate. The LDF had nominated former Speaker and minister M. Vijayakumar for the seat. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)  fielded former Union Minister O. Rajagopal. In all, there were 16 candidates in the fray.
Counting of votes will be taken up on June 30.


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Kozhikode airport resumes operations after clash that left CISF man dead

One jawan dies in clash between CISF men, AAI staff at Kozhikode airport
Normal operations resumed at the Kozhikode airport in Kerala this morning after it was closed for several hours last night following the death of a Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) head constable in a clash between CISF men and Airports Authority of India (AAI) staff.
Kerala Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala told newspersons here that flight operations had resumed at the airport this morning.
The airport had been closed for several hours last night following the incident and flights had been diverted to Kochi airport, he said.
The resumption of operations followed long hours of conciliatory talks held by senior Kerala Police officials with the staff of the CISF and the AAI till early this morning. "The situation is under control," Mr Chennithala said.
According to various sources, the incident occurred around 9.30 pm after a tussle between AAI staff members, who objected to the frequent frisking by the CISF men before they entered the airport.
More men from the two sides joined the argument and, in the scuffle that followed, a CISF jawan, in his early 50s, died after being hit by a bullet fired from the weapon of one of his colleagues.
In the chaos that followed, state police forces had to be deployed to bring the situation under control, sources said.
Mr Chennithala said an inquiry had been ordered into the incident to establish the sequence of events and whether the firing was an accident.
In Delhi, the Ministry of Civil Aviation said the firearm belonging to a CISF man went off, killing the head constable. The official who was holding the firearm sustained burn injuries on the hand and has been hospitalised.
"The scuffle continued for some time and as a precaution five flights were diverted," a statement from the Ministry said.
Senior officers from the Ministry, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), AAI and Security Directorates have been rushed to the site to take full control of the situation, it said, adding that the matter was being looked into.
As many as five flights were diverted to Kochi between 2259 yesterday and 0302 hours today, the statement said.
According to it, normalcy was restored by 2.15 am today and flight operations commenced at 6.20 am.
The first diverted flight landed back at Kozhikode Airport at 0651 hrs. One enroute flight of Air India was also diverted which landed at 0801 hrs.

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Samsung India sets up technical school in Kerala

Samsung India Electronics today announced the setting up of  the 18th Samsung Technical School in the country at ITI, Kalamassery in Kochi, Kerala as part of its initiatives for skill development among the youth.
The announcement was made at an event here at which Samsung signed a memorandum of agreement (MoA) with the Government Industrial Training Institute, Kalamassery, Kerala.
The MoA was signed by Ms. A. Shainamol, Director, Industrial Training Department, Government of Kerala and Mr. Rajiv Mishra, Vice President, Samsung India Electronics, in the presence of Mr Shibu Baby John, Minister for Labour & Skills, Government of Kerala.
A press release from the company said the school would provide students trade-specific training on various aspects of repair and troubleshooting of consumer electronic products such as mobile phones, televisions, home theatres and home appliances. 
Through the specially-designed curriculum Advanced Repair and Industrial Skills Enhancement (A.R.I.S.E.) program, the course will also offer students the opportunity to get real-time work experience at Samsung authorised service centres and training on soft skills so that they can provide exemplary customer service. Upon graduation, students can join consumer electronics and mobile phone service centres or become entrepreneurs by setting up their service centres.
“Kerala, with its high rate of literacy, recognizes that supplementing academic education with vocational training is important for its growth and development. Collaborations with industry leaders such as Samsung bring the critical component of exposure to the demands of the industry, which will help with making our youth industry-relevant and employment-ready," Mr. John said.
Mr. Mishra said,“Samsung is proud to partner with the State of Kerala on its commitment to providing vocational education. The knowledge and skills that students gain through the A.R.I.S.E. program help not only with finding employment in the industry, but also in setting up micro or small enterprises. We are confident that Samsung Technical Schools will contribute to further strengthening Kerala’s strong sense of entrepreneurship.”
There are 15 Samsung Technical Schools operational in the country, with three others in the process of being set up. Over 3,000 youth have passed out from these schools since July 2014, which have been set up in collaboration with the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) and Departments of Technical Education in states such as Bihar, Delhi, Rajasthan and West Bengal. 
Samsung recently announced the setting up of the MSME-Samsung Digital Academy, aimed at training youth to create innovative solutions for next-generation digital ecosystems.

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Top Kerala Maoist couple arrested by AP police from Coimbatore

Police arrest top Kerala Maoist couple, three others in Coimbatore
A top Maoist couple from Kerala, Roopesh and his wife Shyna, who had evaded arrest for more than ten years, were arrested along with three others by the Andhra Pradesh police from a bakery near Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu late last night, official sources said.
Roopesh, a law graduate who is wanted in 20 criminal cases, his wife and the others were tracked down to a bakery at a village near Coimbatore, where they were having coffee when the police surrounded them, the sources said.
They were arrested in a joint operation by the police of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Confirming the arrests, Kerala Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala told journalists here that it was a major breakthrough in the anti-Maoist operations in the Southern states.
He said the police forces of the four states had been working diligently on the cases for many years.
He said the arrested persons were making efforts to create chaos and confusion in the Southern states.
Mr Chennithala said the Kerala government would try to get the arrested people to the state because most of the cases against them were registered in Kerala. "The law will take its own course. They will be produced in court. After that, we will try to get them," he said.
The sources said Roopesh's wife is a former employee of the Kerala High Court. The other three persons held have been identified as Anoop from Kerala, Veeramani from Karnataka and Kannan from Tamil Nadu.

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Kerala exempts buildings upto 660 sq ft from house tax

The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government in Kerala has decided to totally exempt from house tax all buildigns with an area upto 660 square feet, starting from this fiscal year 2014-15.
This will be applicable both in panchayat and municipality areas, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told journalists after a meeting of his Cabinet here yesterday.
He also announced that the government had decided to roll back the increase in tax levied on houses in panchayat and municipalities that are having a built-up area of up to 2000 sq ft. 
The decision was taken on the basis of the recommendation by Ministers M K Muneer and Manjalamkuzhi Ali at the meeting of the UDF held at Kovalam near here recently.
The hike had comei into effect from 1.04.2013. The tax levied based on the increased tax from house owners will be adjusted in the tax payable next year, he said.
The increased tax is only applicable to houses of more than 2000 sq ft area; but it should not exceed 25% of the tax. If any expansion works have been done to homes after the hike that came into effect from 01.04.2013 the tax will be calculated in proportion to the tax levied prior to the hike. For commercial buildings, the annual tax should not exceed 100% of the tax levied earlier, he added.

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UDF accepts Mani's demand, removes PC George as chief whip

The ruling Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) today removed Kerala Congress (M) leader P C George from the post of Chief Whip in deference to the wishes of the party's chief and state Finance Minister K M Mani.
The decision came late tonight after long hours of discussions between UDF leaders and Mr George in an effort to find some "meeting point".
Apart from Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, the meeting was attended by Home Miniser Ramesh Chennithala and Industries Minister P K Kunhalikutty.
"We could not reach a 'meeting point' in our discussions. Therefore, the UDF has decided to accept the request made by Mr K M Mani," he said.
Mr George, the vice-chairman of the Kerala Congress (M), had taken the position all along that he would not resign from the post. Mr Mani, on the other hand, insisted that Mr George must be removed.
The relations between Mr Mani and Mr George had soured over the bribery scandal related to bars in the state.
Responding to questions from journalists, Mr Chandy said these kinds of decisions were normal in a coalition. “Kerala Congress (M) has the right to withdraw its representative as the government chief whip."
To another question about Mr George's future plans, Mr Chandy said it would upto him to decide whether to continue in the UDF or not.

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