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Israeli film makers comments about Kashmir File generate heated reactions

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Israeli Envoy denounces remarks

New Delhi: A day after International Film Festival of India jury president and filmmaker Nadav Lapid called ‘Kashmir Files’ a “vulgar” film and labelled it “propaganda,” expressing shock at the fact that it was presented in the competition category at all, several reactions have come in, including from the Israeli ambassador to India.

Written and directed by Vivek Agnihotri and produced by Zee Studios, ‘The Kashmir Files’ film seeks to depict the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir following the killings of people from the community by terrorists. Following its March 11 release, the film was called out for its hateful representation of Muslims by a wide section of critics, but it performed well at the box office and minted over Rs 330 crore. In various BJP-ruled states, watching it was incentivised by the government.

At an address where Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting Anurag Singh Thakur, Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant and Union Ministers of State L. Murugan and Shripad Naik were present, Lapid tore into the film.

“All of us were disturbed and shocked by the 15th film, The Kashmir Files. That felt like a propaganda, 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 this stage. In the spirit of this festival, can surely also accept a critical discussion, which is essential for art and life,” Lapid said.

On Wednesday, Israel’s ambassador to India moved to limit the damage the Israeli director had wrought on a film that has the full backing of the Indian government.

In a series of tweets, Naor Gilon said Lapid should be “ashamed” as he had “abused in the worst way” the Indian invitation to him to chair the panel of judges at the film festival.

Over multiple tweets which he captioned as an ‘open letter to Nadav Lapid’, Gilon said he is hurt by Lapid’s reactions and that it was clear that he also disapproved of the way Israel is run.

Gilon also said that the backlash has involved comments that have questioned the genocide of European Jews.

“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.

The ambassador also appeared to say that there would be some repercussions in India against the embassy’s staff – he did not specify in what form but appeared to allude to social media harassment.

“You will go back to Israel thinking that you are bold and ‘made a statement’. We, the representatives of Israel, would stay here. You should see our DM boxes following your ‘bravery’ and what implications it may have on the team under my responsibility,” he tweeted.

Meanwhile, Indian filmmaker Sudipto Sen, who was the only Indian on the five member 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 Spanish documentary filmmaker Javier Angulo Barturen and French film editor Pascale Chavance “never mentioned anything about our likes or dislikes”.

Comments by Lapid were made in his “personal capacity”, he stressed.

“As 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 added.

His tweet, on which he tagged I&B minister Thakur, was shared by multiple rightwing commentators.

Bharatiya Janata Party’s Goa spokesperson Savio Rodrigues in a media statement said, “The statement made by filmmaker and IFFI jury head Nadav Lapid over ‘The Kashmir Files’ is an insult to the horrors faced by Kashmir Hindus (in the past).”

Separately, Israel’s Consul General to Midwest India Kobbi Shoshani, sharing dais with actor Anupam Kher at a press conference, said the “The Kashmir Files” is not propaganda but a “strong movie” that gives place to sufferings of the people of Kashmir.

“If he himself does not like a film, you are most welcome to say it. But if you are a jury member, you cannot use words like ‘vulgar’, ‘propaganda’. The world has identified with the film, the pain and problems of Kashmiri Pandits which have been going on for the last 32 years,” the actor added.

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