IFFI's Foreign Jurors Back Lapid on 'Kashmir Files', Say Their Criticism Is Artistic, Not Political

'It saddens us greatly to see the festival platform being used for politics and subsequent personal attacks on Nadav,' Jinko Gotoh, Pascale Chavance and Javier Angulo Barturen wrote in a joint statement.

New Delhi: Days after Israeli director and international jury head Nadav Lapid shot to headlines for calling the Kashmir Files ‘vulgar’ at the International Film Festival of India, all jury members other than the one Indian on it have issued a statement endorsing his comments.

At the closing ceremony of IFFI, with Union ministers in attendance, Lapid had said his thoughts on the “propaganda” film were shared by the jury, but Sudipto Sen – the Indian jury member – later disputed this claim.

Breaking their silence, the three foreign members of the IFFI jury have now said they stand behind what Lapid said.

On December 3, fellow jury member Jinko Gotoh tweeted a statement expressing the support of all the foreign members of the jury for Lapid’s stance on the Kashmir Files.

Though the handle has not been verified by Twitter, Lapid confirmed to The Wire that the statement put out by the Twitter account was authentic and that the jury members had emailed him a copy.

The statement reads:

“At the festival’s closing ceremony, Nadav Lapid, the jury’s president, made a statement on behalf of the jury members, stating : “We were all of us disturbed and shocked by the 15th film, The Kashmir Files, that felt to us like a vulgar propaganda movie, inappropriate for an artistic competitive section of such a prestigious film festival.”

“We stand by his statement.

“And to clarify, we were not taking a political stance on the film’s content. We were making an artistic statement, and it saddens us greatly to see the festival platform being used for politics and subsequent personal attacks on Nadav. That was never the intention of the jury.”

The statement is signed by Gotoh, Pascale Chavance and Javier Angulo Barturen. All three are feted filmmakers.

The Wire has emailed the three but has yet to receive a reply. However, Sebastien Farcis, Delhi correspondent of the French newspaper Liberation managed to speak to two of them for a story he filed.

The French film editor Pascale Chavance, he wrote, gave her full support to Nadav Lapid. “It is so obvious that it is a propaganda film,” he quoted her saying. “Muslims are presented as monsters, without distinction.” Spanish director Javier Angulo Barturen, concurred: “I completely agree with what Nadav Lapid said in his speech, because it was the majority opinion within the jury,” Liberation quoted him as saying.

“All of us were disturbed and shocked by the 15th film, The Kashmir Files. That felt like a propaganda, vulgar movie, inappropriate for an artistic competitive section of such a prestigious film festival. I feel totally comfortable to openly share these feelings here with you on this stage. In the spirit of this festival, can surely also accept a critical discussion, which is essential for art and life,” Lapid had said at the IFFI closing ceremony in Goa.

Lapid expressed surprise that the film had been selected to be screened at all. In an interview to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, he said he believed that the film was “pushed” into the official competition of the festival due to “political pressure.”

The Vivek Agnihotri film seeks to depict the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir following killings of individuals from the community by terrorists. While the film was criticised by many for what they said was its hateful representation of Muslims, the Bharatiya Janata Party government in the Union and in states has heavily endorsed it.

Lapid has received criticism from rightwing commentators, some mainstream Indians media outlets and the Israeli ambassador to India for speaking on the film.

A day after the address, Indian filmmaker Sudipto Sen, who was the only Indian on the five member international film jury, sought to distance himself and other members from Lapid’s statement, stressing that it was Lapid’s “personal opinion.”

“Whatever has been said by IFFI 2022 Jury Chairman Mr Nadav Lapid about the film Kashmir Files, from the stage of closing ceremony of 53rd IFFI was completely his personal opinion,” Sen wrote in a note shared on Twitter.

But Sen’s statement has now been contradicted by the other jury members. And Sen too clarified to Liberation that while he agreed with Lapid’s view of Kashmir Files, he disagreed with him going public:

“[Sen] tells us that he shares Nadav Lapid’s opinion, but not the fact of declaring it so openly during the closing ceremony, in front of government representatives. And he concludes with a chilling comparison: ‘Filmmakers can have political opinions, but you have to be responsible. Because we are all vulnerable. Look in Iran: director Jafar Panahi has just been sentenced to six years in prison for criticizing the regime’.”

In a 32-minute interview with Karan Thapar for The Wire from his residence in Paris, Lapid had said speaking out was his “duty” and “obligation.”

“I was invited to be frank, not to speak about vanities,” he said.