Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid, who won a Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival over the weekend for his film Ahed’s Knee, doesn’t think it’s hypocritical to accept government funding for a movie portraying the government as censoring art.
“Art must be free, when I get funding from Israel I am filled with responsibility toward the government that has funded and supported me and I have to say what I truly believe,” he said. “Self-censorship is the most dangerous thing.”
Lapid spoke at a press conference on Sunday afternoon just after he returned from the festival.
The movie, which is about a tormented filmmaker, Yud (Avshalom Pollak), who is coping with the fact that his mother is dying while he is brought to speak at an event in the Arava, shared the Jury Prize, in a rare tie, with Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria.
In Ahed’s Knee, the director character is making a film about Ahed Tamimi, the Palestinian teenager who was jailed for striking a soldier, and holds auditions for her part, as well as for someone to play former transportation minister Betzalel Smotrich, who tweeted that, “In my opinion, she deserved a bullet, at the very least to the kneecap.”
The movie also references – although not by name – a culture minister, clearly based on former culture minister Miri Regev, who often antagonized the arts community in Israel.
Asked why he made such clear references to real political figures in the movie, Lapid said, “I wanted to take reality and introduce it into the movie... But it’s not the real person, Ahed Tamimi in the movie; she is a symbol of something in Yud’s world. The movie doesn’t talk about the real, concrete Ahed Tamimi.”
Asked what he hoped Smotrich would get out of the movie, he said, “I don’t really want to talk about Smotrich.”
“It was a topic of conversation at the festival; it was an atomic bomb, a slap in the face, in a good way... With the unprecedented two years of films – 24 films battling each other for all the prizes – would the bomb effect hold on till the end of the festival opposite all these great artists and their films? We are all so happy that it did, that it won this super-important prize.”
He was joined at the press conference by the film’s stars, Avshalom Pollak and Nur Fibak, who accompanied the film to Cannes.
Talking about his sadness that his mother, film editor Era Lapid, who worked on his earlier movies and who passed away three years ago, did not see the movie, he noted that the filming was filled with “sorrow and grief.”“She would tell me all the kinds of things that I didn’t imagine and didn’t expect,” he said. “I hope she would have liked it.”