Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid has offered his apologies for his remarks on The Kashmir Files, saying that his aim was never to insult Kashmiri Pandits or their relatives, who have suffered. “I totally apologise if that’s the way they interpreted it,” said Lapid in an interview with a news channel on Wednesday (November 30).
Lapid, who was the international jury chair at the recently concluded International Film Festival of India (IFFI) had created a massive stir by rubbishing Vivek Agnihotri’s The Kashmir Files, calling it “vulgar” and a “propaganda” film, at the closing ceremony of the 53rd edition of the festival in Goa.
He reiterated in the interview with CNN-News18 that he had only criticised the film (and not the tragedy) for its “series of cinematic manipulations”. “I didn’t want to insult anyone. My aim was never to insult the people (Kashmiri Pandits or their relatives), who have suffered. I totally apologise if that’s the way they interpreted it,” said Lapid, who has now left the country.
Lapid, however, stuck to his guns about his views on The Kashmir Files. “But at the same time, whatever I said and I said clearly that for my fellow jury members and me, it was and it is a vulgar propaganda movie that didn’t have a place and was inappropriate for such a prestigious competitive section. I can repeat it again and again,” he added.
The reputed film director, known for his anti-establishment stance, said his remarks were neither a statement on Kashmir’s political situation nor a denial of the tragedy.
He pointed out that he has enormous respect for the tragedy, victims, survivors and for whoever suffers there. And that his remarks were not at all about this. “I’ll repeat these words 10,000 times if I have to say that I was not talking about the political issue, historical equation, or disrespecting the tragedy that happened in Kashmir,” he said.
“I was talking about the movie and that such serious topics deserve, in my opinion, a serious film,” he added.
Lapid also clarified that it wasn’t his personal opinion at all. He denied IFFI international jury member Sudipto Sen‘s claim that Lapid’s comments on Agnihotri’s directorial were the Israeli director’s “personal opinion”. According to him, all the jury members felt that the “movie used a series of manipulation, vulgar, violence” because it was supposed to transmit a message that can cause hostility, violence and hate in the environment.
A day after the controversy erupted, Agnihotri said he would quit filmmaking if intellectuals, including Lapid, were able to prove that events depicted in his film were false.
To which, Lapid said that it was natural for the director to be furious. “I would be furious too if someone would talk about my film the same way. My films are often looked upon as very controversial and polemic. Certain people have said some very harsh and horrible things about my movies,” he admitted.
“The filmmaker knows very well that the question is not what exactly were the facts. None of us (in the jury), especially myself, ever doubted the facts. I don’t have any capacity, the tools to say what happened in Kashmir,” said Lapid, who lives mostly in France.
On Israel’s Ambassador to India Naor Gilon’s comments against him, Nadid said, although he (Israeli ambassador) was absolutely aware of the fact that he was talking about the movie as propaganda, he had blamed me for talking disrespectfully about the tragedy in Kashmir which is total nonsense. “He is aware of it but he is a manipulator. He knew I was judging the movie as a filmmaker,” he told the channel.
As president of the jury, which he has been in other festivals like Cannes and Berlin, it was his duty to tell the truth as he saw it.
Meanwhile, filmmaker Ashoke Pandit has demanded a probe to find out the people involved in selecting Israeli director Nadav Lapid as the jury head of the IFFI. “It is a failure of our government, ministry of information and broadcasting and director of the film festival (for choosing Lapid as head of jury). You selected him without a background check”, Pandit, who is also the president of the Indian Film and Television Directors Association, told reporters here.
“I am demanding a probe into as to how he was selected as chairperson of the jury. Who are the officers in the information and broadcasting ministry who were involved in this process. Let the probe uncover them,” he said, claiming that Lapid “is a supporter of Palestine…Please check his tweets”. He called the entire incident as a “big conspiracy”.
According to him, Lapid has mocked and made fun of the tragedy of Kashmiri Pandits, Pandit said.
The Kashmir Files describes the truth of Kashmir which is the “genocide of Kashmiri Pandits”, he said. “This plan (of selecting Lapid) was aimed to destroy the credibility of The Kashmir Files, which brought truth of Kashmir in the public domain after 30 long years,” Pandit said.
Pandit also participated in a demonstration by Kashmiri Pandit employees serving in Kashmir demanding relocation to Jammu in the wake of selective and targeted killings by militants. The demonstration entered its 200th day on Wednesday.
The filmmaker said Kashmiri Pandits would not be sitting ducks for target practice of terrorists in Kashmir in a bid to show the world that the situation is peaceful in the Kashmir Valley. The demonstrators said they are not only protesting the “selective and targeted killings” in Kashmir, but also against “ignoring of their plight” by the lieutenant governors administration.
“You want to prove to the world that the situation in Kashmir is normal because Kashmiri Pandits are still working in the Valley and living there. We (Kashmiri Pandit employees) cannot be made sacrificial goats to prove to the world that there is normalcy in the Valley,” Pandit told reporters.