IFFI Jury Chief Nadav Lapid has caused a storm in a tea-cup by making derogatory remarks about ‘The Kashmir Files’. Considering the fact that he was thought qualified enough to judge the entries, people should be able to accept his comments on a film he believes was not worthy of the festival. On the face of it, this should not be considered as raising question marks about the subject matter of the film, the planned attack on Kashmiri Pandits in the ‘90s.
Lapid has also, later, questioned the ‘promotion’ of the film by the government and expressed concern about conditions in India at present. So, while there may be merit in his questioning the quality of the film, he is obviously playing to the gallery when commenting on Indian politics. His behaviour has embarrassed the Israeli Government, which has disassociated itself from his position. It may be noted that Lapid has also been critical of the establishment in his own country and is known as a Palestinian sympathiser. So, it seems he has sought to score brownie points with his chosen constituency. He also overstepped the bounds by claiming to speak on the entire jury’s behalf.
The makers of ‘The Kashmir Files’ intended to remind humanity, Indians in particular, about the ‘genocide’ of Kashmiri Hindus, which had been brushed under the carpet because of political expediency. It can be said that it is more important to express oneself, even if it is not done artistically enough. If all those making films are required to conform to the highest artistic principles, very few would even try. So, while the movie in question may have had ‘propagandist’ elements, and been even ‘vulgar’ in its portrayal of the Pandits’ plight, it was found not to violate the requirements of the Censor Board. There are people who could not tolerate the one-sided story-telling and lack of nuance, but many others did watch and appreciate it. So, Lapid should have confined himself to the quality of the film-making, rather than comment on the politics, considering the exalted position he was given at the Film Festival. That he was invited to head the jury means that at least some knowledgeable people in the film fraternity here thought his work deserves such recognition. Perhaps, if controversy is to be avoided in the future, there should be better scrutiny of the candidates and not just an attempt to select the ‘exotic’ and ‘offbeat’. When required, however, people should also be ready to endure the unpalatable. Going by the reactions to Lapid’s comments, The Kashmir Files’ admirers are more than able to hold their own in the debate that has ensued.