Filmmakers Try to Shut Down LGBTQI Israel Film Festival

Over 100 LGBT Filmmakers Abroad Call for Boycott of Tel Aviv LGBTQI  Film Festival

Haaretz is reporting that more than 100 LGBT filmmakers abroad have signed a petition calling for a boycott of the annual LGBT film festival in Tel Aviv, TLVFest, out of solidarity with the struggle by the Palestinian queer community. What a great irony as so many Palestinian queers hide out in Israel, utilizing the LGBTQI Israeli organizations and community, who unconditionally oblige, in their quest for safety from authorities and their own families! How do I know this? Through the requests for exile I receive at African HRC from Palestinian LGBTI individuals whose safety and safe shelter plans tend to include Israel and Israeli hosts. So why attack Israel’s LGBTQI community dear filmmakers?

These attacks against Israel’s LGBTQI community are nothing new.

The 2019 festival screened UNSETTLED, a film by Tom Shepard, and one that I participate in, received the Best Documentary Audience Award at  the Tel Aviv Film Festival. The film reflects depicts LGBTQI asylum seekers from Africa, as well as an asylum seeker from Syria, with several of us Jews helming the work. Our work is unconditional. We work with asylum seekers and refugees regardless of religion or country. To have filmmakers want to boycott any LGBTQI venue, more especially from within Israel, is insidious as it serves nothing more than to shut down the voices of allies, with such being oppressive in and of itself.

According to Haaretz, the petition was launched by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, an arm of the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, and in cooperation with Palestinian LGBT organizations.

The signatories include the British filmmaker Charlotte Prodger, winner of the Turner Prize for visual artists, and the French director Alain Guiraudie, who directed the film “Stranger by the Lake,” which won acclaim in Israel. Also onboard is the award-winning Indian documentary director Harjant Gill, as well as the AIDS historian Sarah Schulman.

According the petition, the filmmakers oppose the festival because it is supported by Israeli public funding. They call on filmmakers around the world not to submit their work to it, saying they will continue their opposition until Israel respects international law and basic human rights for the Palestinians.

The festival, scheduled to take place from July 4 to July 13, receives support from the Tel Aviv municipality and the Culture and Sports Ministry.

The festival’s founder and artistic director, Yair Hochner, told Haaretz that calls to boycott the festival by queer artists abroad is nothing new and preparations for the event are moving ahead.

TLVFest added in a statement:

“We know that artists who call for a boycott of the gay film festival in Tel Aviv think they are helping the Palestinians but they are mistaken. Today it’s more important than ever that the international community support voices that oppose the Israeli establishment, especially after Likud’s achievement in the election this week.”

In Haaretz, Hochner is noted as saying that “calls for a cultural boycott only intensify many Israelis’ feelings that dialogue with the Palestinians is impossible.”

“While we don’t pretend to tell our Palestinian neighbors how to conduct nonviolent national campaigns, we ask that it be made clear to them that a call for a boycott is a mistake,” he said. “Harm to the festival and the artists who choose to take part will only paralyze the voices of optimism in Israel.”

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