August 28, 2009

Filmakers plan to withdraw from Toronto Film Festival to protest Tel Aviv celebration

Several Canadian filmmakers plan to withdraw their movies from next month's Toronto International Film Festival to protest a weeklong cinematic homage to Tel Aviv...The Tel Aviv-centric week launches the Toronto Festival's new City to City event and is intended to celebrate Tel Aviv's centennial.

According to the protesting artists, including culture critic Naomi Klein and director John Greyson, the problem is not the official participation of Israeli films at the festival but the character of the forum in which they will be screened...In a letter sent to the Toronto festival administration, Greyson wrote that the protest was not against Israeli films or filmmakers chosen for the festival.

He expressed admiration for film work by Israelis shown at previous festivals and said that he would attend Israeli films in the future. Rather, he wrote, his protest was about the "spotlight" itself, the business-as-usual atmosphere advanced by the choice of Tel Aviv as a young, dynamic metropolis, in a celebration free of confrontation with less pleasant parts of Israel, such as what he termed the "brutal occupation." Greyson questioned whether an uncritical celebration at this time might be compared to having held such affairs in 1991 in South Africa, or in 1963 in Montgomery, Alabama.

Israeli director Udi Aloni is supporting the Canadian protest and is calling on Israeli artists to take the same steps.
...According to Aloni, Israeli artists need to rethink their participation in the festival. "Wherever they appear they must decide if they are representatives of the Foreign Ministry or of an uncompromising opposition to occupation and racism in Israel," he said. "Israeli directors don't have to be defensive and ask 'Why are they attacking us?' but say to the Canadian directors: 'We're with you on this. We don't represent [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman; we represent the opposition.' There are only two options. It's no longer possible to shoot and cry."

In a letter addressed to Eytan Fox and Gal Uchovsky, makers of "The Bubble," Aloni asked them: "Are Israeli artists Lieberman's new foreign service cadets?" (Haaretz, 29 August 2009)

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