ISRAELI director and IFFI international jury Chairperson Nadav Lapid was at the centre of furious debate on Tuesday for his comments on “The Kashmir Files” with Israel’s ambassador saying he abused India’s invitation and jury members distancing themselves from his views. As controversy grew, a day after the director described the “The Kashmir Files” as “propaganda” and “vulgar”, BJP leaders, actors such as Anupam Kher and Ranvir Shorey and the film’s director Vivek Agnihotri also joined the discourse against him.
There were some voices, including from the Congress and some in the film fraternity, who spoke up his defence.
Lapid’s surprise comments on the much discussed film came at the closing ceremony of the 53rd edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) on Monday attended by Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Minister Anurag Thakur as well as actors Akshay Kumar and Asha Parekh.
Agnihotri has compared “The Kashmir Files”, which portrays the exodus of Kashmir Pandits from the Valley due to militancy in the early 1990s, to Steven Spielberg’s Holocaust epic “Schindler’s List”.
Agnihotri said, he will quit filmmaking if intellectuals, including Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid, are able to prove that events depicted in his film are false. He also spoke about “truth” in a cryptic media post and said “it is the most dangerous thing” as it can make people lie. Kher, who starred in “The Kashmir Files”, added that truth will always trump falsehood. He also shared a series of stills from “Schindler’s List”, a true life story about German industrialist Oskar Schindler who saved more than a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees from the Holocaust by employing them in his factories during World War II. His post also included a picture of himself in “The Kashmir Files”.
The 1993 Oscar winner was referenced by many people, including Israel Ambassador to India Naor Gilon who wrote an open letter put out in a series of tweets.
“As a son of a holocaust survivor, I was extremely hurt to see reactions in India to you that are doubting Schindler’s List, the Holocaust and worse. I unequivocally condemn such statements. There is no justification. It does show the sensitivity of the Kashmir issue here,” he said. Gilon added that Lapid -- who is viewed as an anti-establishment director -- should be “ashamed” as he had “abused in the worst way” the Indian invitation to him to chair the panel of judges. “The Kashmir Files”, which polarised opinions following its release in March and went on to become a blockbuster hit, was screened at IFFI on November 22 as part of the Indian panorama section.
Indian film director Sudipto Sen, who was part of the international film jury, distanced himself and other members from Lapid’s statement.
“Whatever has been said by IFFI 2022 Jury Chairman Mr Nadav Lapid about the film Kashmir Files, from the stage of closing ceremony of 53rd IFFI was completely his personal opinion,” Sen wrote in a note shared on Twitter.
Sen said he and other jury members, including Spanish documentary filmmaker Javier Angulo Barturen and French film editor Pascale Chavance, made no mention about their “likes or dislikes”. Comments by Lapid were made in his “personal capacity”, he stressed. BJP’s Amit Malviya compared Lapid’s condemnation of “The Kashmir Files” to the denial of the Holocaust.