Film maker and head of the international of the 53rd International Film Festival of India (IFFI) Nadav Lapid kicked off a controversy when he called “The Kashmir Files” “vulgar and propaganda”.
THE KASHMIR FILES; WHAT LAPID SAID?
At the closing ceremony, Lapid said that The Kashmir Files seemed to them like a propagandist movie inappropriate for an artistic, competitive section of such a prestigious film festival. “I feel totally comfortable to share openly these feelings here with you on stage. Since the spirit of having a festival is to accept also a critical discussion, which is essential for art and for life,” he said.
“I feel comfortable to openly share this feeling with you since the spirit of the festival can truly accept critical discussion which is essential for art and life”, Lapid said.
WHO IS LAPID?
Lapid’s recent controversy over ‘The Kashmir Files” is not a surprise when looking at his long history of criticising the Israeli state. His films often depict harsh realities of life in an increasingly autocratic modern-day Israel. His debut feature Policeman won the Locarno Festival Special Jury Prize at the Locarno International Film Festival in 2011. He won the Golden Bear award for his 2019 film ‘Synonyms’ at the 69th Berlin International Film Festival. His latest film, Ahed’s Knee shared the Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize with Memoria by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and was selected to compete for the prestigious Palme d’Or.
FOR AND AGAINST LAPID
Soon after the controversy, some praised Lapid for his boldness in calling ‘The Kashmir Files” as propagandist movie while some others accused him of being insensitive to the problems of the Kashmiri pandits. Leaders from the ruling BJP lashed out at Lapid for calling the film “vulgar” and “propaganda”. Meanwhile, leaders from the opposition praised the Israel film maker for daring to speak the truth.
Actor Anupam Kher, who played the protagonist in the movie, came out against Lapid. “May God give him wisdom. If the holocaust is right, then the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits is also right,” he said. “To use the platform of IFFI for your own agenda is not only unfortunate, it’s disgusting,” Kher said.
Kher also addressed the media along with Israel’s consul general Kobbi Shoshani, who also slammed film maker for his controversial remarks. Meanwhile, Israel’s Ambassador to India, Naor Gilon apologised to Indian authorities for the film maker’s statement. Addressing Lapid in a series of tweets, Gilon wrote, “My suggestion. As you vocally did in the past, feel free to use the liberty to sound your criticism of what you dislike in Israel but no need to reflect your frustration on other countries. I’m not sure that you have enough factual basis to make such comparisons. I know I don’t.”
“You will go back to Israel thinking that you are bold and ‘made a statement’. We, the representatives of Israel, would stay here. You should see our DM boxes following your ‘bravery’ and what implications it may have on the team under my responsibility,” the ambassador said.
Congress spokesperson and head of the party’s social media department Supriya Srinate tweeted’ “Hate gets called out, eventually,” she said in a tweet late Monday night.
THE KASHMIR FILES
Written and directed by Vivek Agnihotri, the film is based on the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley at the height of militancy in the 90s. The movie, promoted by BJP leaders, was a commercial success, but faced allegations of fanning communal sentiments. The Kashmir Files’, which was released in theatres on March 11, was part of the Indian Panorama Section at IFFI and was screened on November 22.