Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid, whose critical remarks about the film ‘The Kashmir Files’ caused quite a stir at a film festival, stood by them and said: “Someone has to speak up”.
Lapid, head of the international jury of the International Film Festival of India in Goa, said at the festival’s closing ceremony that the Vivek Agnihotri-directed film was “propaganda and vulgar”. He said the jury was “disturbed and shocked” at the screening of the film.
“It seemed to us a propagandistic film that was inappropriate for an artistic, competitive part of such a prestigious film festival,” he added.
The comments caused an outcry, with many accusing the award-winning filmmaker of being insensitive to the suffering of Kashmiri Pandits, who were forced to flee the Valley at the height of militancy in the 1990s. Many wondered how someone from a community who has had to deal with the horrors of the Holocaust can make such remarks.
Speaking to Israeli news website Ynet on the phone, Mr Lapid said:
“It’s crazy, what’s going on here. It’s a government festival and it’s the biggest in India. It’s a movie that the Indian government, even though it didn’t actually make it, is at least making it in an unusual way It actually justifies Indian policy in Kashmir, and it has fascist features,” he said, according to a rough translation of the interview in Hebrew.
He said there are claims that the move captured dimensions hidden by intellectuals and the media. “It is always the same method: there is a foreign enemy and there are traitors from within.”
Promoted by leaders of the ruling BJP, the film has been a commercial success but has also faced accusations of fueling communal feelings. Following Mr Lapid’s remarks, a section of social media users and public figures also said he had “incited propaganda”.
The filmmaker’s comments have also drawn strong criticism from Israeli diplomats in India, with envoy Naor Gilon saying Mr Lapid “should be ashamed” and demanding an apology.
In his interview, Mr Lapid said that while watching the film he was shocked by the “transparent combination between propaganda and fascism and vulgarity”. “I couldn’t help but imagine an Israeli film like this one and a half or two years from now,” he told Ynet.
When asked if he expected the massive backlash to his comments, he said he was “concerned”. “It’s not an easy position, you’re a guest, I’m the president of the jury here, you’re treated very nicely. And then you come and attack the festival. There was fear and there was discomfort,” he said. adding, “Let’s put it this way: I’m glad I’m on my way to the airport now.”
The filmmaker said that if the chairman of a foreign jury were to criticize a film from his country, he would be “happy”, even if it is “not a pleasant feeling”. “In countries that are increasingly losing the ability to speak your mind or speak the truth, someone has to speak up. When I saw this movie, I couldn’t help but imagine the Israeli equivalent, which doesn’t exist but could definitely exist . So I felt I had to,” he said.
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