A day after saying that he does not have a ‘key’ with which he can decipher what is propaganda and what isn’t, Israeli director Nadav Lapid said in an interview that he ‘definitely knows how to recognise a piece of propaganda masquerading as a film’. The filmmaker has been at the centre of a controversy after describing the polarising film The Kashmir Files as a ‘vulgar’ piece of propaganda in his closing remarks at the recently concluded 53rd International Film Festival of India (IFFI). Lapid was serving as the president of the jury at the prestigious event.
Lapid, in an interview with CNN-News18, apologised for inadvertently offending the sentiments of any community, and said that he ‘didn’t want to insult anyone, or their relatives, who have suffered.’
In an interview with Haaretz, the filmmaker said that he discovered that The Kashmir Files was included in the competition lineup at the festival due to ‘political pressure’, and felt that it was his ‘duty’ to speak out against it. He said, “We learned that the film was pushed into the official competition of the festival, which is the largest in India, due to political pressure. So I feel that precisely as a foreigner who goes there, you have an obligation to say the things that the people who live there may have a harder time saying.”
In a tweet on Thursday morning, The Kashmir Files director Vivek Agnihotri wrote, “People do and say things to hurt you because somewhere they are unhappy that you have got what they desired. That’s why they want to destroy you. Letting such people hurt you is not just cowardice but self-destruction.”
Lapid claimed to have proof that his fellow jury members were also in agreement with the stance that he had decided to take, although filmmaker Sudipto Sen has said that Lapid acted on his own. Lapid also told Haaretz that he has received ‘hundreds of messages and emails from film people and others in India who are happy about it, and for them, finally things were said that they believed in.’
He added, “Making bad films is not a crime, but this is a very crude and very manipulative and very violent propaganda film.” Lapid admitted that he doesn’t know everything about the Kashmir conflict, he can recognise propaganda when he sees it. Citing the films of the Nazi propagandist Leni Reifenstahl, he added, “I promise you that if you had watched three random minutes of the film, the question would have been unnecessary.”
The Kashmir Files has been dividing opinion ever since its release earlier this year. Based on the mass exodus of Kashmiri Hindus from the Valley in the 90s, the film has been accused of inciting communal hate. It defied poor reviews and went on to become a major box office hit, aided by endorsements by members of the ruling party.