In an open letter, ambassador Naor Gilon on Tuesday came down heavily on Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid for calling ‘The Kashmir Files’, a film based on the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits, as “vulgar propaganda”. “You should be ashamed,” the Israeli ambassador tweeted.
Speaking at the International Film Festival of India in Goa on Monday, filmmaker Lapid, who was named its head of jury, said that he was “shocked and disturbed” by Vivek Agnihotri’s The Kashmir Files.
“It felt to us like a propaganda vulgar movie inappropriate for an artistic, competitive section of such a prestigious film festival. I feel totally comfortable to share openly these feelings here with you on stage. Since the spirit of having a festival is to accept also a critical discussion which is essential for art and for life,” he told the gathering.
An open letter to #NadavLapid following his criticism of #KashmirFiles. It’s not in Hebrew because I wanted our Indian brothers and sisters to be able to understand. It is also relatively long so I’ll give you the bottom line first. YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED. Here’s why: pic.twitter.com/8YpSQGMXIR
— Naor Gilon (@NaorGilon) November 29, 2022
As his comments became a subject of public condemnation, Israeli ambassador to India Naor Gilon, in a series of tweets, accused the filmmaker of inflicting damages on the India-Israel relationship and tendered an apology on Twitter.
“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,” he wrote.
He further said: “I’m no film expert but I do know that it’s insensitive and presumptuous to speak about historic events before deeply studying them and which are an open wound in India because many of the involved are still around and still paying a price.”
‘The Kashmir Files’ meticulously documents the planned attempt at ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley during the 90s. It was screened at IFFI on November 22 as a part of the Indian Panorama Section.
In an “open letter”, ambassador Gilon said there was no justification to Lapid’s remarks.
“As a son of a holocaust survivor, I was extremely hurt to see reactions in India to you that are doubting Schindler’s List, the Holocaust and worse. I unequivocally condemn such statements. There is no justification. It does show the sensitivity of the Kashmir issue here,” the Israeli envoy wrote.
Accusing Lapid of abusing the Indian invitation to chair the panel of judges at IFFI and the warm hospitality, he suggested: “As you vocally did in the past, feel free to use the liberty to sound your criticism of what you dislike in Israel but no need to reflect your frustration on other countries. I’m not sure that you have enough factual basis to make such comparisons. I know I don’t,” Naor Gilon slammed Nadav Lapid.
“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,” the ambassador concluded.
Israel’s consul general in Mumbai, Kobbi Shoshani said that the controversial comments don’t reflect the official position of his nation.
“When I saw the film, tears came rolling down my eyes. It was not an easy film to see. I think it was shown in Israel too. We are Jews who suffered from horrible things and I think we have to share others’ sufferings,” he said.
“He (Nadav Lapid) is not representing the State of Israel… I told him after the speech that he made a big mistake, and that it wasn’t appropriate,” he said.
Sudipto Sen, a member of the IFFI international jury, said Lapid’s statement was “completely his personal opinion”.
“As jurors, we are assigned to judge the technical, aesthetic quality and socia-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 a personal capacity – nothing to do with the esteemed jury board,” Sen wrote on Twitter.
Kashmir Files was one of the 25 films shortlisted for competition on the recommendation of the Indian Panorama Feature Jury, but it could not win any award.