The Value of a Film, the Conscience of a Jury and the Agenda of a Regime: The Kashmir Files Case

George Orwell famously said that all art is propaganda. It is important to differentiate between good and bad publicity. The novelist and literary critic’s statement again became relevant as the 53rd edition of the International Film Festival of India suddenly came alive during its closing ceremony when international jury chief Nadav Lapid narrated it. The Kashmir Files, one of 15 films in the international competitive section, as a “propaganda, pornographic film, inappropriate for the artistic competitive section of such a prestigious film festival”. Directed by Vivek Agnihotri, the film starring Anupam Kher, Pallavi Joshi and Mithun Chakraborty is set against the backdrop of the targeted killings and subsequent exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in the 1990s.

film and aftermath

Mr Lapid made the remarks in the presence of several dignitaries, including Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur, who did not respond to the Israeli filmmaker’s statement during his address. The minister perhaps respected that as well as Mr. Lapid said, “I feel completely comfortable sharing these feelings openly with you on this platform. In the spirit of this festival, surely an important discussion can also be accepted, which is essential for art and life. At the same time, as the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting organizes the prestigious festival and appoints the jury, Mr. Thakur was in no position to counter the views of someone who was speaking on a platform provided to him by the government.

However, the incident led to widespread outrage on social media, with people linking criticism of the film with its disrespect for the pain of Kashmiri Pandits and abuse of freedom of expression. In an open letter on Twitter to Mr Lapid, Israel’s ambassador Nor Gillon said the filmmaker abused Indian hospitality and that it was “insensitive and arrogant to talk about historical events before studying them in depth,” and even suggested that his remarks could jeopardize India-Israel ties. There were others who said that Mr. Lapid spoke out of turn The Kashmir Files Didn’t win any award in IFFI and could have registered his point outside the stage.

Beyond the emotional outburst, if we look at Nadav’s statement, it was not against the suffering of Kashmiri Pandits who are still being targeted in the Valley. It was directed against a film that he felt did not do justice to the subject. And, as the foreman of the jury, he had a right to his opinion. He is not the first one. Many Indian critics, while acknowledging that the film tackles the issue directly, have noted that the film consciously avoids the ambiguity and complexities of a problem that has no single truth and lacks intellectual and technical rigour. There is an absence of what is usually expected of a festival. Thin layer. Besides, this was no comment on the quality of Indian cinema as two more films from the host country were vying for the coveted Golden Peacock. He specifically questioned the admission of The Kashmir Files In a list of 15 candidates in a competitive section. He did not question the screening of the film as part of the Indian panorama often shows a film with popular appeal.

Cinematic/Diplomatic Parallels

Like the film in question, perhaps the organizers of the festival simplified things too much. He thought that the jury chief of a friendly country, who had emerged from the pain of the holocaust, would understand the plight of the Hindus in Kashmir. But the cinematic language is as complex and nuanced, if not more so, than the language of diplomacy and both Indian and Israeli Mandarin fumbled.

Coming from a country with a record of using soft power for political gains on the world stage, Nadav might have seen someone’s presence The Kashmir Files Shortlisted in a government-backed festival as a soft move to support the current Indian government’s hardline policy on Kashmir. The fact that the BJP’s top leadership openly supported the film when it released earlier this year provided her a reason to be “shocked and upset”. This also explains why he used the platform to make his point. A simple background check of Nadav would reveal that his remarks were consistent with his work and actions. In his films, the acclaimed Paris-based director examines his relationship with Israel and his Jewish identity. It is not very different from Mr. Kher’s exploration of his Kashmiri Pandit identity.

Nadav Lapid is one of the top 250 Israeli filmmakers who signed an open letter in September this year, saying they would neither seek funding nor support the recently established Shomron (Samaria/West Bank) ) will collaborate with the Film Fund. The fund’s goal, the filmmakers write, is “to invite Israeli filmmakers to actively participate in the whitewashing business in exchange for financial support and rewards.” After the Goa episode, he told an Israeli media house that he couldn’t help but imagine an Israeli film like this in a year and a half or two.

In India we have not seen such a fund yet and the selection of films in IFFI was not under the control of the government. really, siaOne of the films screened in the Indian Panorama section at IFFI is based on the Unnao rape case in which a representative of the ruling party was convicted. However, it is also being observed that a series of films are being produced by people who show allegiance to the ideology of the Sangh Parivar and are willing to use cinema as a medium to propagate it.

There is nothing wrong with furthering the agenda of a democratically elected government because all art is political in the sense that it serves one’s politics. But as Nadav suggested in an interview, it should not be so transparent that even a foreign filmmaker can see through it. This probably makes it indecent.

forum for disagreement

Furthermore, whether some members of the Academy are urging their fellow delegates to look past Kathryn Bigelow’s tyranny-supporting agenda zero dark thirty before voting for this or Michael Moore’s anti-Bush documentary fahrenheit 9/11 Winning the top prize at Cannes in an election year, film festivals and award ceremonies have always been platforms to celebrate dissent.

The Kashmir Files Notes that the government has changed but the ecosystem remains the same. The makers and supporters of the film should not hold any grudge and understand that pressing of EVMs does not change the artistic space overnight and jury chiefs also like to share their mind in public.

Once this journalist asked Vishal Bhardwaj, who made a film on Kashmir haider About his leftist leanings and he said: “If I am not a leftist, I am not an artist.” In an ideal world, both Vishal and Vivek could co-exist and critique each other’s work.