‘The Kashmir Files’ Has Fascist Features: Israeli Filmmaker doubles down. ‘Someone has to speak up’

NB: Here’s my post on the same theme some months ago. DS

Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid, whose critical remarks on ‘The Kashmir Files’ movie at a film festival have raised a storm, has stood by them and said “someone has to speak up”. Mr Lapid, the head of the international jury at the International Film Festival of India in Goa, said at the festival’s closing ceremony that the Vivek Agnihotri-directed film was “propaganda and vulgar”. He said the jury was “disturbed and shocked” at the screening of the film.

“It seemed to us like a propagandist movie inappropriate for an artistic, competitive section of such a prestigious film festival,” he added. The remarks sparked a huge row, with many accusing the award-winning filmmaker of being insensitive towards the suffering of Kashmiri Pandits, who were forced to flee the Valley at the height of militancy in the 90s. Many wondered how someone from a community that faced the horrors of the Holocaust could make such remarks.

Speaking to Israeli news website Ynet over the phone, Mr Lapid said, “It’s crazy, what’s going on here. It’s a government festival and it’s the biggest in India. It’s a film that the Indian government, even if it didn’t actually make it, at least pushed it in an unusual way. It basically justifies the Indian policy in Kashmir, and it has fascist features,” he said, according to a rough translation of the interview in Hebrew. He said there are claims that the move captured dimensions hidden by intellectuals and the media. “It is always the same method – that there is the foreign enemy, and there are traitors from within.”

The movie, which was promoted by leaders of the ruling BJP, has been a commercial success, but has also faced allegations of fanning communal sentiments. Following Mr Lapid’s remarks, a section of social media users and public figures also said he had “called out propaganda”. The filmmaker’s remarks have also drawn strong criticism from Israel’s diplomats in India, with envoy Naor Gilon saying that Mr Lapid “should be ashamed” and demanding his apology.

In his interview, Mr Lapid said that while he was watching the movie, he was shocked by the “transparent combination between propaganda and fascism and vulgarity”. “I couldn’t help but imagine an Israeli film like this in another year and a half or two,” he told Ynet. Asked if he anticipated the massive backlash to his remarks, he said he was “apprehensive”. “It is not an easy position, you are a guest, I am the president of the jury here, you are treated very nicely. And then you come and attack the festival. There was apprehension, and there was discomfort,” he said, adding, “Let’s put it this way: I’m happy to be on my way to the airport now.”

The filmmaker said that if the chairman of a foreign jury spoke critically about a film of his country, he would be “happy” even if it is “not a pleasant feeling”. “In countries that are increasingly losing the ability to speak your mind or speak the truth, someone needs to speak up. When I saw this movie, I couldn’t help but imagine its Israeli equivalent, which doesn’t exist but could definitely exist. So I felt I had to,” he said.


Who’s Nadav Lapid? A recipient of the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres (one of France’s highest civilian awards recognising contribution in the field of arts), Lapid is a part of various film juries across the world. In his career spanning nearly two decades, Lapid has directed 13 films in total, including both full-length features and short films. He has received high praise for his work. His debut feature film ‘Policeman’ (2011) won the Locarno Festival Special Jury Prize at the Locarno International Film Festival in 2011 as well as multiple awards in the Jerusalem film festival. This film explores various themes through its main character, the head of Israel’s counter terrorism forces. Showing Lapid’s deep empathy and ability to portray complex, multi-dimensional characters on screen, this film announced the 36-year-old filmmaker on the world stage.

The Kashmir Files