New Delhi: Indian documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan has called for an immediate ceasefire in the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict in his acceptance speech for the Best Editing award at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA).
Patwardhan won the award for his film titled Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam/The World is Family.
The festival, the world’s largest documentary gathering, has long been seen as being politically vocal and has come under criticism in its latest edition for attempting to tread carefully in the ongoing conflict.
It has faced criticism first from some Israeli and American filmmakers, and then from Palestinian filmmakers.
According to a report in Deadline, the opening night ceremony of the festival last Wednesday saw three pro-Palestinian demonstrators interrupting IDFA artistic director Orwa Nyrabia’s remarks.
They were carrying a banner bearing the controversial slogan, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free”, which is viewed by many Jews as anti-Semitic and calling for the destruction of Israel.
While Nyrabia applauded the protesters on stage, he later issued a joint apology after facing criticism from members of Israel’s film community as well as some documentary filmmakers in the US.
His apology then drew criticism from many Palestinian filmmakers including Basma al-Sharif, a Palestinian director and artist who withdrew a film at the festival.
Palestinian filmmaker Jumana Manna also took to Instagram to announce the cancellation of her film at the festival.
In his acceptance speech, Patwardhan said that he took the opportunity to “amplify all international voices calling for an immediate ceasefire in Palestine, Ukraine and other ongoing war zones.”
He said that “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is a “misunderstood slogan” and its real meaning – which he said was “a call for a land where Muslims, Jews, Christians and all others can live together in peace and harmony and with equal rights” – should be emphasised.
Patwardhan also lauded those who pulled out of the festival, those who stayed back to continue to debate and those who “allowed the space” to do so.
“Our protests have been non-violent. Non-violence can build a global community. In many parts of the world Palestinians and Jews are marching together with others to demand an immediate ceasefire and a just peace,” he said.
His acceptance speech is reproduced below:
Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam/The World is Family
Acceptance speech for Best Editing Award at IDFA, 2023
I take this opportunity to amplify all international voices calling for an immediate ceasefire in Palestine, Ukraine and other ongoing war zones.
“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is a misunderstood slogan. Some interpret it as a slogan calling for a One State solution and the ethnic cleansing of Jews. This misunderstanding is why the real meaning of the slogan should be explained and emphasized – it is a call for a land where Muslims, Jews, Christians and all others can live together in peace and harmony and with equal rights.
I applaud those who pulled out of the festival and sparked an international debate. I applaud those who stayed back to continue the debate from within. And I applaud those who allowed us the space to do it.
Our protests have been non-violent. Non-violence can build a global community. In many parts of the world Palestinians and Jews are marching together with others to demand an immediate ceasefire and a just peace.
The entire world is enslaved by a global arms industry that profits from every war and from every death. It is from this slavery that our world must be set free.
The world is family.
16 November 2023