IFFI Jury Chief Nadav Lapid Calls Kashmir Files 'Vulgar', Israel Envoy Issues Apology
Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid said the movie was 'propaganda' and did not deserve place in the 2022 International Film Festival of India.
Israeli filmmaker and chairman of the jury of the 2022 International Film Festival of India (IFFI) Nadav Lapid's remarks calling The Kashmir Files 'vulgar' and 'inappropriate' has triggered a row with Israel's ambassador to India criticising the comments and another member of the jury saying Lapid's remarks were made in personal capacity.
The Kashmir Files is a film directed by Vivek Agnihotri and is about the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from Jammu and Kashmir in the 1990s.
What did Nadav Lapid say?
During the closing ceremony of IFFI in Goa on Monday, Lapid took to the stage and while describing the films that were showcased during the international competition, he said, "All of us were disturbed and shocked by the 15th film, by the movie 'The Kashmir Files' that felt to us like a propaganda vulgar movie inappropriate for the artistic competitive section of such a prestigious film festival."
Lapid preceded his remarks on The Kashmir Files by saying that all the other 14 films had certain cinematic qualities and "evoked vivid discussions" among the members of the jury. However, he deemed that The Kashmir Files had no place in the competition that was the "front window" of the festival.
Lapid said, "I feel totally comfortable to share openly these feelings here with you on stage since the spirit that we felt in the festival can also accept critical discussion, which is essential for art and for life."
Reactions to Lapid's comments
Lapid's comments triggered a series of reactions, including from the Ambassador of Israel to India, Sri Lanka and Bhutan Naor Gilon. Gilon took to Twitter to write an "open letter" to Lapid saying he should be ashamed of his comments. "In Indian culture they say that a guest is like God. You have abused in the worst way the Indian invitation to chair the panel of judges at @IFFIGoa as well as the trust, respect and warm hospitality they have bestowed on you," Gilon said.
Gilon said that as the son of a Holocaust survivor, he was dismayed by Lapid's comments. "As a son of a holocaust survivor, I was extremely hurt to see reactions in India to you that are doubting Schindler's List, the Holocaust and worse. I unequivocally condemn such statements. There is no justification. It does show the sensitivity of the Kashmir issue here," he said.
Gilon spoke of the implications of Lapid's comments saying, "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."
A member of the jury in IFFI, Sudipto Sen, distanced himself from the remark saying it was Lapid's personal opinion. Sen said, "Whatever has been said by IFFI 2022 Jury Chairman Mr. Nadav Lapid about the film Kashmir Files, from the stage of closing ceremony of 53-rd IFFI was completely his personal opinion. In the official presentation of the Jury Board to the Festival Director and in the official Press Conference, where we 4 juries (the fifth jury had to leave for her personal emergency) were present and interacted with the press, we never mentioned anything about our likes or dislikes. Both were our official collective opinion."
Sen said that jurors don't usually make political remarks about the films and judge them on the basis of technical and aesthetic qualities and social cultural relevance. If political remarks are at all made, Sen said, it was in a personal capacity.
Kobbi Shoshani, consul general of Israel to India, said that he told Nadav after the speech that it was a mistake. "I told him after the speech that he made a big mistake, that it wasn't appropriate," he said and added hat Nadav did not represent Israel.
The Kashmir Files, since its release, has evoked controversies earlier as well. The film was banned in Singapore with the country terming the movie "provocative and one-sided". In India, it triggered hate speech against Muslims, with movie goers chanting 'goli maro' slogans — similar to ones chanted during the 2020 Delhi riots — in movie theatres.
The film had found support from even Prime Minister Narendra Modi who had said that the film brought out the "truth" that was long suppressed. BJP ruled states such as Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Madhya Pradesh and Tripura, among others, also made it tax free.
Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur and Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant — both IFFI committee members — were present during the event. Sawant was among the chief ministers who had announced a tax exemption for the film in his state.
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