New Delhi: With his comments critical of Vivek Agnihotri’s film The Kashmir Files making news daily in India, Israeli director and IFFI international jury chair Nadav Lapid has said he stands by his remarks as he “knows how to recognise propaganda disguised as a movie”.
Reacting to the backlash he received for calling the film a “vulgar” and “propaganda” movie – including from Israel’s envoys to India Lapid – said making bad films is not a crime, but the Vivek Agnihotri directorial is “crude, manipulative and violent”.
“Making bad films is not a crime, but this is a very crude, manipulative and violent propaganda film,” Lapid said in an interview with Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz.
According to the filmmaker, he felt it was his “duty” to speak his mind as the head of the international jury.
Lapid also appeared on an Indian television channel and doubled down on the claim that the whole jury had been surprised and shocked at the film.
The film attempts to essay the conditions that led to the Kashmiri Pandit exodus and has been heavily endorsed by the Bharatiya Janata Party and its government. Critics, however, have commented on its anti-Muslim message, its use of the beleaguered Pandit community for propaganda and its “relentless communalism.”
“The truth is that I also couldn’t help but imagine a similar situation that might happen one day soon in Israel, and I would be happy that in such a situation the head of a foreign jury would be willing to say things as he sees them. In a way, I felt it was my duty to the place that invited me,” Lapid said.
The award-winning filmmaker had called out Kashmir Files, which was screened at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) on November 22 under the Indian Panorama section, at the closing ceremony of the nine-day festival in Goa on Monday.
The team of The Kashmir Files, including writer-director Agnihotri, stars Anupam Kher and Pallavi Joshi, several BJP leaders including Goa CM Pramod Sawant as well as Israel’s Ambassador to India Naor Gilon and Consul General to Midwest India Kobbi Shoshani panned Lapid. Sudipto Sen, one of the members on the jury, said remarks expressed by the Israeli filmmaker were his “personal opinion”.
Lapid also alleged that the film was “pushed into the official competition” of the festival due to political pressure.
“We learned that the film was pushed into the official competition of the festival due to political pressure… I feel as a foreigner who arrives there, you have an obligation to say the things that the people who live there may have a harder time saying.
“In such contexts I don’t believe in secrets and whispers. If you stand on stage and are asked to speak, what will you talk about? Only about the beaches you saw and the food you ate?” the filmmaker said.
When asked if he had in-depth knowledge of the Kashmir conflict to draw such conclusions, Lapid accepted he “of course did not know enough”.
He, however, defended himself saying “you can also watch films by Leni Riefenstahl (a German filmmaker who glorified the Nazi Party) and know what you’re seeing, without being a great expert on that period.”
“There are cases that are nuanced, but this is not the case. In a way, ‘The Kashmir Files’ makes life easy because it is so bare and aggressive, that it doesn’t even mask itself intelligently,” said the Paris-based director.
On the criticism he has received from Israel diplomats in India, Lapid said his comments were “political” but not representative of his country.
He claimed he has received hundreds of emails and messages from cine personalities from India “who are happy about it” and for them “finally things were said that they believed in”.
“Since this is a film that the Indian government encourages, I assume that the government there is not happy about it. But is a country only about its government? I assume not. What I said is not comfortable for the Government of India, nor for the government in the making in Israel, which the ambassador there represents,” Lapid asserted.
(With PTI inputs)