‘The Kashmir Files’ row: IFFI’s foreign jurors back Lapid, say their criticism is artistic, not political

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New Delhi: Days after Israeli director and international jury head Nadav Lapid shot to headlines for calling ‘The Kashmir Files’ “vulgar” at the International Film Festival of India, all jury members other than the one Indian on it have issued a statement endorsing his comments.

At the closing ceremony of IFFI, with Union ministers in attendance, Lapid had said his thoughts on the “propaganda” film were shared by the jury, but Sudipto Sen – the Indian jury member – later disputed this claim.

“As a board member, I stand by that we didn’t award ‘The Kashmir Files’. We only awarded five films. This decision was unanimous. And we gave an official presentation to the NFDC and the festival authority. After that, the jury board’s work is done.

“Now after that if somebody goes in public and picks up one particular film and says something which is not expected, then that is his personal feeling. It has nothing to do with the jury board,” Sen was quoted as saying by PTI.

Breaking their silence, the three foreign members of the IFFI jury have now said they stand behind what Lapid said.

On December 03, fellow jury member Jinko Gotoh tweeted a statement expressing the support of all the foreign members of the jury for Lapid’s stance on ‘The Kashmir Files’.

Though the handle has not been verified by Twitter, Lapid confirmed that the statement put out by the Twitter account was authentic and that the jury members had emailed him a copy.

The statement reads: “At the festival’s closing ceremony, Nadav Lapid, the jury’s president, made a statement on behalf of the jury members, stating: “We were all of us disturbed and shocked by the 15th film, The Kashmir Files, that felt to us like a vulgar propaganda movie, inappropriate for an artistic competitive section of such a prestigious film festival.”

“We stand by his statement.

“And to clarify, we were not taking a political stance on the film’s content. We were making an artistic statement, and it saddens us greatly to see the festival platform being used for politics and subsequent personal attacks on Nadav. That was never the intention of the jury.”

The statement is signed by Gotoh, Pascale Chavance and Javier Angulo Barturen. All three are feted filmmakers.

Meanwhile, Sebastien Farcis, Delhi correspondent of the French newspaper ‘Liberation’ said he managed to speak to two of them for a story he filed.

The French film editor Pascale Chavance, he wrote, gave her full support to Nadav Lapid.

“It is so obvious that it is a propaganda film,” he quoted her saying. “Muslims are presented as monsters, without distinction.”

Spanish director Javier Angulo Barturen concurred: “I completely agree with what Nadav Lapid said in his speech, because it was the majority opinion within the jury,” Liberation quoted him as saying.

“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 had said at the IFFI closing ceremony in Goa.

Lapid expressed surprise that the film had been selected to be screened at all.

In an interview to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, he said he believed that the film was “pushed” into the official competition of the festival due to “political pressure.”

Lapid has received criticism from rightwing commentators, some mainstream Indian media outlets and the Israeli ambassador to India for speaking on the film.

Earlier in a 32-minute interview with Karan Thapar for ‘The Wire’ from his residence in Paris, Lapid had said that he “stands by every single word he has said” and that speaking out was his “duty” and “obligation.”

“I was invited to be frank, not to speak about vanities,” he said.

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