IT’S been a huge commercial success, but The Kashmir Files has been mired in controversy since its release in March this year. The film, which revolves around the exodus and killing of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990, has drawn conflicting opinions. There’s been praise for its poignant depiction of a tragic period as well as criticism for being loose with facts and fanning communal sentiments. The film’s endorsement by the BJP added a political and divisive tinge to the debate. Now, the strong words used against it by the Israeli chairman of the jury of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa have created diplomatic ripples. The Israeli ambassador has had to make an immediate intervention with an outright apology. His open letter lashes out at his countryman for abuse of hospitality.
A stinging critique of any movie vying for wider recognition would have led to furious reactions, but accompanied by critical discussions that a film festival facilitates. That Israeli writer-director Nadav Lapid’s observations were aimed at The Kashmir Files touched a raw nerve. A sensitive subject, the emotions surrounding the events, the tight mesh of politics and an Indian setting with ministers in attendance — a heady mix, for sure. The filmmaker termed it a propaganda and vulgar movie, inappropriate for an artistic competitive section of a prestigious film festival. The viewpoint would find many takers. However, Lapid slammed shut all attempts at nuanced conversations or artistic critique by politically labelling the movie vulgar.
The envoy’s rebuff says it is insensitive to speak about events before deeply studying them and which are an open wound. Fair advice, but wasn’t the jury head commenting on a cinematic production he was asked to judge? It would make sense to view the scathing review of The Kashmir Files only in the cinematic context. The notion that it undermines the plight of Kashmiri Pandits would be a false reading.
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