'Someone needs to speak up': Who is Nadav Lapid and how he reacted to the outrage for his comments on The Kashmir Files?

(This article is authored by Alar)

Who is Nadav Lapid? This has been a wave of quest across India after his comments against the movie 'The Kashmir Files' sparked nationwide outrage, particularly from the BJP and Hindutva leaders. Thanks to his comments, Lapid has gained more popularity in India in a day than in his homeland, Israel. His speech at the closing ceremony of the 53rd edition of International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa on Monday about The Kashmir Files movie put him in controversy and went on to stir a diplomatic tension. 

The Kashmir Files was helmed by Vivek Agnihotri and got released this March. It was centered around the 1990s exodus of Kashmiri Hindus from the Indian-administered Kashmir. Strongly praised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and by several right-wing leaders, The Kashmir Files entered to the IFFI for a screening where it had eventually drawn a grave negative comment. More than 280 films from 79 countries were screened at this year's Film Festival. 25 films and 20 non-films were aired on India Panorama. 

Israeli Filmmaker Nadav Lapid, who head the International Jury at the IFFI, divulged that The Kashmir Files is a vulgar movie and carried a propaganda. Lapid said, "All of us are disturbed (by the movie). It felt to us like a propaganda, vulgar movie inappropriate for an artistic competitive section of such a prestigious competition. I feel totally comfortable in sharing these feelings openly on stage, since the spirit of the festival truly accepts critical discussion which is essential for art and life."

For the right-wing groups, Lapid's overt remarks against The Kashmir Files were beyond the pale as they staged a digital attack against him. Lapid quickly made headlines across the country and a sea of people began surfing about him. So, who is Nadav Lapid? This 47-year-old filmmaker has been considered as one of the most acclaimed filmmakers from Israel. He was the son of writer and a film editor, and his debut directorial feature 'Policeman' won the Locarno Festival Special Jury Prize at the Locarno International Film Festival in 2011. 

He was also named as a member of the jury of the International Critics' Week section of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. His film Synonyms also received the Golden Bear award at the 69th Berlin International Film Festival in February 2019. In November 2022, Lapid had been invited to head the jury of the 53rd International Film Festival of India (IFFI), where the real stir began in the nation. 

His voice has been heard for the Palestinian cause in many ways, despite the fact that he was born in Israel. He addressed issues of Palestinian rights, including the killing of children and the use of missiles, as well as the conflict at the Gaza border. The Israeli envoy of India had attributed Lapid's comments to the latter's notion on the Israeli-Palestine conflict. Israeli Ambassador to India, Naor Gilon, came in support of The Kashmir Files and alleged that Lapid was clearly drawing connections between his dislike of Israeli politics and the film. 

Now, for the first time since making comments against The Kashmir Files, Lapid has opened up about his remarks and about the nationwide outrage. Lapid called the outrage over his comments "crazy," according to excerpt of the phone conversation with the Israeli news outlet Ynet. He said, "It was broadcast live on television. It’s a government festival and it’s the biggest in India. It’s a film that the Indian government, if it didn’t actually initiate, at least pushed it in an unusual way, because it basically justifies the Indian policy in Kashmir, and it has fascist features."  

He further said, "It is that the dimensions of the event were hidden by the intellectuals and the media. And it is always the same method – that there is the foreign enemy, and there are the traitors from within. Our colleagues in the emerging government can tell about these methods." "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, because I come from a place that is itself not reformed, and is itself on the way to this place".