Nadav Lapid, the Israeli filmmaker whose comments on The Kashmir Files have created controversy, says, “I am not taking back anything. I stand totally behind every word I said at the award ceremony.”
Lapid, who headed the jury at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa, said The Kashmir Files is a “propaganda, vulgar movie, inappropriate for an artistic competitive section of such a prestigious film festival”.
In a 32-minute interview with Karan Thapar for The Wire, from his residence in Paris, he said, “In a way it was my duty, my obligation. I was invited to be frank not to speak about vanities.”
He revealed that he has received hundreds, maybe thousands, of threatening messages. Speaking specifically about the Israeli ambassador who, in a public letter to Lapid, said he should be ashamed of himself and claimed he had denigrated Indian hospitality and damaged India-Israel relations.
Lapid said: “I feel ashamed of this reaction of an Israeli diplomat.”
He repeatedly denied that he, in an interview with India Today, which was reported by Hindustan Times, called The Kashmir Files a “brilliant movie”.
He also clarified that in a separate interview with CNN-News18, he was only apologising if he hurt the feelings of the relatives of those who were killed by militants, but he was by no means apologising for criticising the film.
“Criticising a movie is not criticising India or criticising what happened in Kashmir,” he added.
Referring to Anupam Kher’s claim that the criticism of The Kashmir Files is like denial of the Holocaust, he said that Kher, as well as Vivek Agnihotri, the director, must remember that their film is “not equal” to the tragedy that happened in Kashmir. He added how that tragedy is portrayed in a film can be legitimately criticised without questioning the veracity of the events it portrays.
Speaking about what he calls the “vulgarity” and “crude quality” of The Kashmir Files, Lapid spoke about the way “the bad guys” are portrayed. He said, “The terrorists are like cartoon creatures.” He said they lacked “the truth of free life”. He said the portrayal is “a flat product”. Giving a few details, he added: “Look at the way the main terrorist is portrayed with a tick in his eye… it’s an extremely bad joke.”
Lapid insisted that “all the jury members shared exactly the same impression about the film.”
Confirming comments he has made to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and the Israeli website Ynet, Lapid said he felt a need to speak out and express what he believes is the truth, possibly because many others in India may share this thinking but are unable to speak it publicly.
He added that after the reaction in India, he believes “my instinct was right… I had to tell the truth.”
He asked a question to those criticising him: “Do you want to live in a place where people are scared to open their mouth?”
Lapid also explains his views, his response to what others have said, his reaction to the controversy and furore that has been created and how the film was pushed by the Indian government. He says, in reverse circumstances, he would welcome Indian filmmakers coming to Israel and criticising Israeli films on subjects that are sensitive to or important for the Israeli people.