Editorial: Keep film festivals above reproach

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Wednesday, November 30, 2022, 03:21 AM IST
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A promotional image for The Kashmir Files | File Photo

Filmmakers and artists are not usually conformists. They have a mind of their own and that is why their films and other works of art are watched or appreciated. Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid, who headed the jury at the just-concluded International Film Festival of India (IFFI), caused a flutter in the dovecote when he said, “We were, all of us [jury members], disturbed and shocked by the 15th film, The Kashmir Files, that felt to us like a vulgar propaganda movie, inappropriate for an artistic competitive section of such a prestigious film festival.” All he said was that the film should not have been in that particular section. It was the collective opinion of the jury that he expressed. Those who claimed that his opinion was outrageous were either ignorant or preferred to be ignorant about the controversy the film had created.

Israel’s Ambassador to India Naor Gilon, who wrote an open letter to Mr Lapid, and his predecessor Daniel Carmon were indulging in what could be called a damage-control exercise. To argue that Mr Lapid being a “guest” of India should not have spoken up in Goa is to endorse the plea that there was a quid pro quo in accepting the invitation. The concept ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ (guest is god) does not mean the guest should not tell the host the truth. The Ambassador may be a great diplomat, but his comparison of The Kashmir Files with Steven Spielberg’s Holocaust movie Schindler’s List shows that his knowledge of both history and filmography is questionable.

Nadav Lapid was not the first person to find The Kashmir Files more in the genre of propaganda than art. It was for political reasons that the film received support from the establishment in the form of tax exemptions. There were even instances where vested interests bought tickets in bulk and distributed them among the public. Much of the film’s box-office success was drummed up. Nobody can say the jury chief had any axe to grind when he criticised the film. Instead, his criticism should be welcomed by the authorities concerned so that only films of exceptional quality are selected for the IFFI in future. That is how the image of the prestigious festival can be saved.

Think about animals too

Jagdish Chandra Bose was a pioneering scientist who discovered that plants and trees suffered pain when they were cut or had nails driven into them. No such discovery was needed in the case of animals, which respond like human beings when they suffer bodily pain. Similarly, everyone knows how a person born and brought up in the upper reaches of the Himalayas would feel if he were forced to stay in, say, Sriganganagar in Rajasthan, where the temperature soars to 50°C in summer. Yet, nobody is bothered how the gorillas, who have been living in a mountainous area in Uganda, would feel when they are transported to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park at Borivali in Mumbai. If a proposal being mooted by the State Government is accepted, a couple of the majestic primates will soon be in the metropolis where safaris would be organised for visitors.

Of course, the news would have warmed the cockles of their heart, but when will they ever think how the sudden and dramatic change of habitat would impact the animals? In a country which has strict animal protection laws under which the Uttar Pradesh Police recently registered a case against someone who killed a rat, no one thinks about the torture that would be inflicted on the primates. Are such intercontinental transfers of animals necessary when there are channels like Discovery which show in vivid details animals living in their natural habitat? Of course, safaris are an attraction for those who want to see animals in their own habitat. There are travel companies which organise trips to Bwindi in Uganda where about 300 endangered gorillas live at present and where the tourists can see them in their natural glory. Why should they be transported all the way to be kept in a national park where they will be like fish out of water?

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