‘I can recognise ‘propaganda disguised as a movie’, Israeli filmmaker stands by comments

Jerusalem, December 01 (KMS): Unmoved by the venomous criticism of Hindutva brigade led by the ruling BJP in India of his comments against the controversial film “The Kashmir Files”, Israeli Nadav Lapid said he stands by his remarks as he “knows how to recognise propaganda disguised as a movie”.

Reacting to the outburst of the BJP leaders and activists for calling “The Kashmir Files” a “vulgar” and “propaganda” movie, Lapid said making bad films is not a crime, but the Vivek Agnihotri directorial is “crude, manipulative and violent”.

“Making bad films is not a crime, but this is a very crude, manipulative and violent propaganda film,” Lapid said in an interview with Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz.

According to the filmmaker, he felt it was his “duty” to speak his mind as the head of the international jury. “The truth is that I also couldn’t help but imagine a similar situation that might happen one day soon in Israel, and I would be happy that in such a situation the head of a foreign jury would be willing to say things as he sees them. In a way, I felt it was my duty to the place that invited me,” he said.
The award-winning filmmaker had called out “The Kashmir Files”, which was screened at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) on November 22 under the Indian Panorama section, at the closing ceremony of the nine-day festival in Goa on Monday.

The team of “The Kashmir Files”, including writer-director Agnihotri, stars Anupam Kher and Pallavi Joshi, several BJP leaders including Goa CM Pramod Sawant as well as Israel’s Ambassador to India Naor Gilon and Consul General to Midwest India Kobbi Shoshani panned Lapid.

Lapid said that “The Kashmir Files” was “pushed into the official competition” of the festival.

“We learned that the film was pushed into the official competition of the festival due to political pressure… I feel as a foreigner who arrive there, you have an obligation to say the things that the people who live there may have a harder time saying.

“In such contexts I don’t believe in secrets and whispers. If you stand on stage and are asked to speak, what will you talk about? Only about the beaches you saw and the food you ate?” the filmmaker said.

When asked if he had in-depth knowledge of the Kashmir conflict to draw such conclusions, Lapid defended himself saying “you can also watch films by Leni Riefenstahl (a German filmmaker who glorified the Nazi Party) and know what you’re seeing, without being a great expert on that period.”

Meanwhile, talking to Ynet.co, he said, “It [the film] was broadcast live on television. It’s a government festival and it’s the biggest in India. It’s a film that the Indian government, if it didn’t actually initiate, at least pushed it in an unusual way, because it basically justifies the Indian policy in Kashmir, and it has fascist features. The claim is there. It is that the dimensions of the event were hidden by the intellectuals and the media. And it is always the same method – that there is the foreign enemy, and there are the traitors from within. Our colleagues in the emerging government can tell about these methods”.

On the criticism he has received from Israel diplomats in India, Lapid said his comments were “political” but not representative of his country.

Amid the social media backlash and on-ground protests by the BJP workers, the acclaimed director found support in Congress leader Supriya Shrinate, Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi, and actor Swara Bhasker.

He claimed he has received hundreds of emails and messages from cine personalities from India “who are happy about it” and for them “finally things were said that they believed in”.

Asked if he would change anything in the way he expressed his opinion that led to the uproar, Lapid said he was invited to the festival as a director and he talked about a film’s subject. “I did not come to express one position or another on the conflict in Kashmir…” he said.

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