Embattled Israeli filmmaker who denounced ‘propaganda’ film gets Indian festival jury’s support

The jury members of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) have come out in support of their colleague, Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid, after he dubbed a a controversial film with the Indian government’s backing as “propaganda” at the film festival.

Mr Lapid had lashed out at The Kashmir Files at IFFI’s closing ceremony on Monday by saying the movie did not deserve to compete at the festival because it was “vulgar”.

“All of us were disturbed and shocked... by the movie The Kashmir Files that felt to us like a propaganda vulgar movie inappropriate for an artistic competitive section of such a prestigious film festival,” he said.

In making the comments, Mr Lapid found himself at the centre of a political storm because India’s Hindu right wing ecosystem, along with the right-wing federal government, have both backed and praised the movie.

Mr Lapid was attacked by the Israel government’s envoy to India as well, who said he should be “ashamed” to make the comments.

But on Saturday, BAFTA winner Jinko Gotoh, who was part of the five-member IFFI jury, came out in support of Mr Lapid through a joint statement posted on Twitter and signed by her and fellow jurors Pascale Chavance and Javier Angulo Barturen.

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“At the festival’s closing ceremony, Nadav Lapid, the jury’s president, made a statement on behalf of the jury members... We stand by his statement,” it said.

The statement added that the jury members were saddened to see the festival’s stage being used for politics and attacks on Mr Lapid.

It added that their remarks were not a political stance on the contents of the film but an artistic statement.

One of the jury members, Sudipto Sen had earlier said in an interview with an Indian outlet that the rest of the jury did not subscribe to Mr Lapid’s views.

“Nadav went to speak on the stage of the IFFI’s closing ceremony as the jury chairman of the International Competition. However, the statements he made there were done in his personal capacity,” he said to The Indian Express.

Mr Sen’s name was left out of the statement issued by Ms Gotoh on behalf of the jury.

Mr Lapid in subsequent interviews has defended his comments and said: “In countries that are increasingly losing the ability to speak your mind or speak the truth, someone needs to speak up.”

The movie, which was widely pushed by the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and received tax breaks in several BJP-ruled states, depicts the early 1990s exodus of people, mainly Hindus, from the Himalayan region of Kashmir amid threats of terror.

Critics have attacked the movie that they said was riddled with inaccuracies and for pushing an anti-Muslim agenda. The political fallout had resulted in several violent incidents during screenings in many Indian states.