When Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid was questioned about his partly autobiographical film Haberech (Ahed’s Knee, 2021), on the red carpet of the Cannes Film Festival last year. He said: “We live in a world where we don’t look at art as we should be. Art that makes us feel a little uncomfortable; art that makes us doubt and art that can sometimes shake us a little.” Although Lapid was then competing for the Palme d’Or – the highest honor at Cannes – for the first time, he had already established his reputation as a politically conscious filmmaker.
Ahed’s Knee is his fourth feature film to share the jury prize with Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Reminder. Hailed by many as his “most radical film to date,” Ahed’s Knee makes a scathing statement against the Israeli government’s cultural policies and propaganda. The film revolves around Y, an Israeli filmmaker in his mid-40s, who arrives in a remote desert village to present one of his films. There Y meets Yahalom, an officer of the Ministry of Culture, and has to fight two lost battles: one against the death of freedom in his country and the other against the death of his mother. Filmmaker Spike Lee, who headed the Cannes jury, called Ahed’s Knee “brave”.
Lapid shows the political point of view known for his films and at the closing ceremony of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), Goaon Monday night called Vivek Agnihotri-directed The Kashmir Files (2022) a “propaganda, vulgar film”. The Israeli filmmaker was jury chairman of the International Competition section, which screened 15 films, including The Kashmir Files. Presenting his jury report, Lapid said: “I feel completely comfortable sharing these feelings openly with you on stage here, as the spirit we felt at the festival can certainly accept a critical discussion that is essential to art and life.”
Considered a prominent screenwriter and director, Lapid’s decade-long career is defined by his scathing socio-political commentary that often comes from deep personal and emotional space. Designed like a movie within a movie, Ahed’s Knee opens with a casting for the role of Ahed Tamimi, the young Palestinian protester who made headlines in 2017 after beating an Israeli soldier. Those who auditioned for her role were asked to reenact a scene where a general retaliates by breaking the character’s knee. This fictional scene was inspired by Israeli politician Bezalel Smotrich’s tweet that young protesters “should have taken a bullet, at least in the kneecap.”
Through Ahed’s Knee, Lapid questions his complicated relationship with his native country; he has now moved to Paris. While this is something he has done before, in his films such as Synonyms (2019), in Ahed’s Knee the director-writer expresses his anger and frustration against the Israeli state. Based on Lapid’s own experiences, Synonyms is about a young Israeli who moves to Paris to start a new life and tries to escape his identity. The protagonist refuses to speak Hebrew and harbors complex feelings for his country which he finds politically distasteful. Synonyms was the winner of the Golden Bear at the 2019 Berlin International Film Festival and the FIPRESCI Award (Competition).
The filmmaker, son of writer Haim Lapid and film editor Era Lapid, was born in Tel-Aviv in 1975. Lapid studied philosophy at Tel-Aviv University and literature in Paris. He worked as a cameraman in several documentaries in Israel. Graduated in 2006 from the Sam Spiegel Film School, Jerusalem. He made his directorial debut with the feature film Policeman (2011), which won the Special Jury Prize at the 2011 Locarno International Film Festival.
He shares an old connection with the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), Goa, as Sarit Larry, the lead actress of his second feature film, The Kindergarten Teacher (2014), who received the Best Actor Award (Female) at the festival. . This film was also screened in the International Critics’ Week of the Cannes Film Festival in 2014. Lapid was later chosen as a member of the jury of the International Critics’ Week in 2016.
Lapid is well aware of the role of art when it comes to taking a stand. He also believes in telling stories that have “a universal truth”. That makes him and his work relevant. When Nur Fibak, who plays Yahalom in Ahed’s Knee, is approached on the Cannes red carpet, he talks about the clarity Lapid has about his characters and story. Fibak says, “He’s someone you can trust with your eyes closed.”
Here’s a look at the other judges who are powerhouses in their own fields:
Film producer, United States
Award-winning producer and consultant to the animation industry, Jinko Gotoh places a strong emphasis on visual storytelling. Her areas of expertise include identifying new voices, developing creative talent and exploring new technologies. Gotoh served as Director, Digital Production, at Walt Disney Feature Animation, where she oversaw the studio’s inevitable transition to CGI animation and its extensive use in films such as Dinosaur (2000) and Fantasia 2000 (2000).
Born in Japan, Gotoh developed a passion for animation at a young age as a result of two life-changing encounters: watching Disney’s 1955 musical, Lady and the Tramp, and an unforgettable encounter with Astro Boy creator Osamu Tezuka.
The BAFTA winner, who has worked in the animation industry for over 25 years, began her career as a CGI producer for Space Jam (1996). She went to work for Walt Disney Feature Animation as director of digital production. She played a key role in the development of The Secret Lab, the company’s now-defunct VFX division, and was one of the driving forces behind the move into CGI animation.
Gotoh is currently producing the computer-animated fantasy Escape from Hat for Netflix, based on Adam Kline’s children’s book of the same name. Her other film producing credits include the Oscar-winning Finding Nemo (2003), the Oscar-nominated The Illusionist (2006), 9 (2009), The Little Prince (2015), The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019), and the Oscar nominee Klaus (2019).
In addition to being a vice president at the NGO Women in Architecture, Gotoh is also a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where she serves on several committees as a representative of diversity and inclusion. She is also a founding board member of Symphonic Jazz Orchestra, which provides music education to poor communities.
Javier Angulo Barturen
Documentary filmmaker, film critic and journalist, France
Spanish-born Javier Angulo Barturen, 73, is co-director of the award-winning documentaries The Loss (2006), which won the top prize at the Habana Film Festival, and Helios’ Suitcase (2019), which had its world premiere at the Huelva Ibero -American Film Festival in Spain.
He was appointed Artistic Director of the Valladolid International Film Festival (in 2008), popularly known as Seminci, one of Spain’s largest international film festivals that honors authors and independent filmmakers. The highest institutional award of the Community of Castilla y León, the Castilla y León Award for the Arts, was presented to Seminci in 2016.
But he is also known for his journalistic acumen. Not only was he representative of the Basque Country, director of the Politics/Spain section and editor of the Sunday Supplement at El Pais, which was founded in 1976, but he also mentored journalism students at the University of Valladolid.
Barturen started the cinematographic information magazine Cinemana in 1995, of which he was the director until 2006. During that period he attended several international film festivals, some of which invited him to serve on their international juries.
Since the late 1990s, Barturen has participated in the European Meetings with French Cinema organized by Unifrance, where all the most recent films from France are shown that are now accessible to festivals and the market. He has been a member of the European Film Academy since 2006, votes each year in the organisation’s annual awards and regularly attends public meetings in Berlin where the development of European cinema is discussed.
He is a regular contributor to the Zeta group’s El Dominical supplement and the SER chain’s Hoy por Hoy show on film-related topics. He also collaborated with the Malaga Festival, the first Spanish film and fiction festival for television, which started in 2007.
Film editor, France
Pascale Chavance has worked on a number of critically acclaimed films, including Catherine Breillat’s Fat Girl (2001) and Sex is Comedy (2002). Her films have been screened at numerous film festivals worldwide and have won awards at Cannes, Berlin, Rotterdam and Venice, among others. As an editor, Chavance is powerful and distinctive, adding a natural freshness to films. She is known to take risks in her editorial decisions, especially in films with sensitive content, enriching the art form.
(Input by Aditya Vaddepalli)