Israeli director Nadav Lapid surprised audiences during his speech at the closing ceremony of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa by criticizing the festival for including controversial Hindi-language movie The Kashmir Files in competition.
While praising the quality of most of the 15 films in competition, Lapid said on behalf of the jury: “We were all of us disturbed and shocked by the 15th film, 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 continued: “I feel totally comfortable to share openly these feelings here with you on stage since the spirit of the festival can truly accept also a critical discussion, which is essential for art and for life.”
Directed by Vivek Agnihotri, the film is a depiction of the exodus of Kashmiri Hindus, also known as Pandits, from the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley following rising violence in an insurgency in the early 1990s. Released in India in March this year, the film reportedly stirred up anti-Muslim sentiments, with audiences erupting in hate speeches and calling for the slaughter of Muslims and a boycott of Muslim businesses after seeing the film.
Lapid’s speech was made in front of several Indian government ministers, as the festival is a government-organised event, funded by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party is understood to have supported the film.
The Singapore government banned The Kashmir Files in May due to its “potential to cause enmity between different communities”.
Lapid’s 2019 Synonyms won the Golden Bear at Berlin Film Festival and his credits also include The Kindergarten Teacher, which premiered in the Critics Week section of the Cannes Film Festival in 2014. He also served as a member of the jury of the Critics Week section at the 2016 edition of the Cannes Film Festival.
His fellow jurors at IFFI Goa include US producer Jinko Gotoh, French editor Pascale Chavance, Spanish filmmaker and critic Javier Angulo and Indian filmmaker Sudipto Sen.