DESCRIBING THE controversial movie “The Kashmir Files” as “propaganda” and “vulgar”, Israeli filmmaker and a jury chief at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), Nadav Lapid, said he was “shocked” and “disturbed” by its inclusion in the competitive section.
Sharing the jury report during the closing ceremony of the 53rd edition of IFFI in Goa, Lapid said: “Usually, I don’t read from paper. This time, I want to be precise. I want to thank the director and head of the programming of the festival for its cinematic richness, the diversity and complexity…There were 15 films in the international competition — the front window of the festival. Fourteen out of them had the cinematic qualities…and evoked vivid discussions. We were, all of us, disturbed and shocked by the 15th film, ‘The Kashmir Files’. That felt to us like a propaganda, vulgar movie, inappropriate for an artistic competitive section of such a prestigious film festival.”
Lapid was the jury chairman of the International Competition section of IFFI. The writer-director, whose film “Synonyms” won the Golden Bear award at the 69th Berlin International Film Festival in 2019, said: “I feel totally comfortable to share openly these feelings here with you on stage since the spirit that we felt in the festival can surely accept a critical discussion which is essential for art and life.”
Lapid delivered his remarks before a number of dignitaries, including Union I&B Minister Anurag Thakur, as well as prominent actors such as Asha Parekh, Akshay Kumar, Ayushmann Khurrana and Rana Daggubati.
Thakur later retweeted a statement from another jury member, Indian director Sudipto Sen, who said Lapid’s remarks were “completely his personal opinion”.
Other members of the jury for the International Competition at IFFI were American producer Jinko Gotoh, French film editor Pascale Chavance and French documentary filmmaker, critic and journalist Javier Angulo Barturen.
“Whatever has been said by IFFI 2022 Jury Chairman Mr. Nadav Lapid about the film Kashmir Files, from the stage of closing ceremony of 53-rd IFFI was completely his personal opinion. In the official presentation of the Jury Board to the Festival Director and in the official Press Conference, where we 4 juries (the fifth jury had to leave for her personal emergency) were present and interacted with the press, we never mentioned anything about our likes or dislikes. Both were our official collective opinion. As a juror, we are assigned to judge the technical, aesthetic quality and socio-cultural relevance of a film. We don’t indulge in any kind of political comments on any film and if it is done, it is completely in personal capacity – nothing to do with the esteemed Jury Board,” Sen tweeted.
Tel Aviv-born Lapid made his directorial debut in 2011 with the feature film “Policeman”, which won the special jury prize at the Locarno International Film Festival that year.
He shares an old connection with the IFFI as his 2014 film “The Kindergarten Teacher”’s actor Sarit Larry was awarded the Best Actor Award (Female) at the festival. This film was also featured in the 2014 Cannes Film Festival’s International Critics’ Week. In 2016, Lapid was chosen as a member of the International Critics’ Week’s jury.
Lapid’s latest feature “Ahed’s Knee” (2021) was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival last year, when it shared the Jury Prize with ‘Memoria’.
Released on March 11 this year, “The Kashmir Files”, directed by Vivek Agnihotri, ran to packed halls. The film is based on the “exodus and killings” of Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley in the 1990s and was endorsed by a number of Union Ministers and granted tax-free status in most all BJP-ruled states. At the time, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the movie had rattled the “entire ecosystem” that claims to be the torchbearer of freedom of expression but does not want the truth to be told.
But critics of the movie said it presented a one-sided narrative of events and raised concerns over communal polarisation. Agnihotri did not respond to a request from The Indian Express seeking comment on Lapid’s remarks. Incidentally, the 53rd edition of the festival also held a special screening of “The Kashmir Files”.
Meanwhile, the Spanish Film “I Have Electric Dreams”, directed by Costa Rican Valentina Maurel, won the Golden Peacock for the Best Film at the festival. Iranian writer and director Nader Saeivar was awarded the Silver Peacock for Best Director for “No End”, a portrayal of Iran’s socio-political system.
Vahid Mobasseri, lead actor of “No End”, was awarded the Silver Peacock for Best Actor (Male), and Daniela Marín Navarro, the lead of “I Have Electric Dreams”, the Silver Peacock for Best Actor (Female). Praveen Kandregula received a special mention for the Telugu film “Cinema Bandi”.