Israeli envoy says filmmaker Nadav Lapid ‘abused’ Indian invitation to chair IFFI Goa panel

Indian jury member distances himself from the Israeli director’s criticism of The Kashmir Files

November 29, 2022 10:46 am | Updated 06:10 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Ambassador of Israel to India, Naor Gilon addresses the media in New Delhi. File photo

Ambassador of Israel to India, Naor Gilon addresses the media in New Delhi. File photo | Photo Credit: PTI

Filmmaker Nadav Lapid has “abused” Indian hospitality by referring to the film, The Kashmir Files, as “propaganda” and “vulgar”, the Israel’s Ambassador to India has said. In an “open letter” to Mr. Lapid, the Israeli envoy, Naor Gilon, equated the film on the exile of the Pandit community from the Kashmir Valley with Steven Spielberg’s Holocaust classic Schindler’s List and urged Mr. Lapid to “justify” his criticism.

Sudipto Sen, a jury member, has distanced himself from the Israeli’s director’s comments, terming them “personal”. 

“In Indian culture, they say that a guest is like God. You have abused in the worst way the Indian invitation to chair the panel of judges at @IFFIGoa as well as the trust, respect, and warm hospitality they have bestowed on you,” Mr. Gilon said. 

Mr. Lapid was invited to chair the jury at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa where The Kashmir Files was screened. The Israeli jury chief lashed out at the film and said, “We were, all of us, [jury members] disturbed and shocked by the 15th film, Kashmir Files, that felt to us like a vulgar propaganda movie inappropriate for an artistic competitive section of such a prestigious film festival.”

In response the Israeli envoy indicated that the filmmaker’s criticism of the controversial film may affect sentiments in India stating, “The friendship between the people and the states of India and Israel is very strong and will survive the damage you have inflicted. As a human being I feel ashamed and want to apologize to our hosts for the bad manner in which we repaid them for their generosity and friendship.”

“You will go back to Israel thinking that you are bold and ‘made a statement’. We, the representatives of Israel, would stay here. You should see our DM boxes following your ‘bravery’ and what implications it may have on the team under my responsibility,” Mr. Gilon said.

Mr. Gilon was supported by his predecessor Daniel Carmon who said in a tweet, “Amb @NaorGilon’s excellent open letter this morning to #NadavLapid speaks for all of us & reflects our true feelings. As the Ambassador said-the friendship between the people & the states of India & Israel is very strong and will survive the damage the film maker has inflicted.”

Mr Carmon said the filmmaker “should apologise for his revolting personal remarks”.

‘Completely his personal opinion’

Sudipto Sen, a member of the IFFI international jury, took to the Twitter to say: “Whatever has been said by IFFI Jury chairman Mr. Nadav Lapid about the film The Kashmir Files from the stage of closing ceremony of 53rd IFFI was completely his personal opinion.”

The filmmaker said in the official presentation of the Jury Board to the Festival Director and in the official press conference, “where we four juries (the fifth jury had to leave for her personal emergency) were present and interacted with the press, we never mentioned anything about our likes or dislikes. Both were our official collective opinion”. He said as juries, they had been assigned to judge the technical and aesthetic quality, and socio-cultural relevance, of a film.

“We don’t indulge in any kind of political comments on any film and if it is done, it is completely in personal capacity -- nothing to do with the esteemed Jury Board,” Mr. Sen said.

Earlier, Mr. Sen had said: “We are proud to judge & award Best 6 cinema/individuals of our time unanimously. IFFI stands behind its fair selection of films representing diverse themes & complex viewpoints from all over the world, just as it acknowledges their subjective interpretations.”

Juries for the film festival are picked up by the IFFI steering committee under the National Film Development Corporation.

Nadav Lapid is known for celebrated films like The Kindergarten Teacher and the 2019 Golden Bear winner Synonyms. His speech at the IFFI Goa drew a strong social media backlash from the supporters of The Kashmir Files, who accused him of neglecting Indian sentiments on the persecution of Pandits in Kashmir.

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