IFFI Jury head Nadav Lapid criticises 'The Kashmir Files', draws flak from Indian right-wing, Israeli envoy

Israeli filmmaker and jury head, Nadav Lapid, strongly criticised Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri’s The Kashmir Files at the International Film Festival of India, calling the film "vulgar" and "propagandist"

Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid (Left) The Kashmir Files poster (Right)
Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid (Left) The Kashmir Files poster (Right)

Amarabati Bhattacharyya

During the closing moments of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) held in Goa on Monday, Israeli filmmaker and jury head, Nadav Lapid, openly criticised Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri’s The Kashmir Files released in March this year – calling it “vulgar” and “propagandist”.

“We were, all of us, disturbed and shocked by the 15th film: The Kashmir Files. That felt like propaganda, a 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 stage. Since the spirit of having a festival is to accept also a critical discussion which is essential for art and for life,” Lapid said addressing the audience at IFFI.

Internationally acclaimed filmmaker Nadav Lapid (47) is known for Synonymes (2019), The Kindergarten Teacher (2014) and Policeman (2011). He has featured as jury member in many film festivals prior to IFFI, such as the Berlin International Film Festival (2021), Cannes Film Festival (2016) and Locarno Film Festival (2015) among others. Lapid has repeatedly voiced his stance against his own nation’s escalation against Palestine, condemning the “whitewashing” of the Israel-Palestine conflict through the films that his nation creates.

Lapid’s remarks have attracted massive backlash from the Indian right wing as well as the Israeli state authorities. Israel’s ambassador to India Naor Gilon instantly reacted strongly against Lapid’s statements, claiming that the latter had “abused” his invitation to an Indian film festival.

Gilon posted a long tweet on Twitter against Lapid. “An open letter to #NadavLapid following his criticism of #KashmirFiles. It’s not in Hebrew because I wanted our Indian brothers and sisters to be able to understand. It is also relatively long so I’ll give you the bottom line first. You should be ashamed. Here’s why,” read his tweet, as he further explained his indignation in seven points. 

Without mentioning Lapid’s name, Agnihotri wrote on Twitter: “Truth is the most dangerous thing. It can make people lie.”

“No matter how high the height of the lie is, it is always small in comparison to the truth,” tweeted the film’s protagonist Anupam Kher, while also attaching images of himself from the film and stills from Schindler’s List.

Similarly, actor Darshan Kumar, who played a significant part in the film clapped back at Lapid. “Everyone has their own individual opinions on anything they see and perceive, but one can’t deny the fact that The Kashmir Files is a film which has depicted the actual plight of the Kashmiri Pandit community, who are still fighting for justice against the brutal acts of terrorism. So this film is not based on vulgarity, but on reality,” he said.

Filmmaker Ashoke Pandit chimed in with the others to slam Lapi’s remarks. “I take strong objection to the language used by Mr. Nadav Lapid for #KashmirFiles. Depicting the genocide of 3 lakh #KashmiriHindus cannot be called vulgar. I as a filmmaker & a #KashmiriPandit condemn this shameless act of abuse towards victims of terrorism,” he tweeted. In a series of tweets that he posted after, he called for action against Lapid, claiming that he has “insulted seven lakh Kashmiri pandits under the nose of the BJP government.” 

Fellow jury-member and director of the controversial anti-Muslim film, The Kerala Story, Sudipto Sen also took to Twitter and said that it was “wrong” for Lapid to express his personal opinion on a public platform. Actor Ranvir Shorey termed Lapid’s action as “political opportunism”.

Although lauded by the ruling camp and distributed tax-free in BJP-led states, several national, as well as international film critics before Lapid, have pointed out the propagandist tones within the film.

Singapore even banned the film for its “provocative and one-sided portrayal of Muslims and the depictions of Hindus being persecuted in the on-going conflict in Kashmir” – classifying it to be outside of the nation’s broadcast guidelines.

Similarly, Canadian filmmaker Dylan Mohan Gray criticised The Kashmir Files – in support of Indian filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, who also spoke out against the film. “It [the film] is a hate-mongering piece of revisionist garbage of no artistic merit,” said Gray. 

The narrative of the film revolves around the killings and exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990 from the valley. Many critics of the film have deemed this as an “embarrassing moment” for India and one that has exposed the “vile nature” of a film such as The Kashmir Files

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