UK Filmmakers Call for Boycott of Israeli Film Festival
Twenty British filmmakers and screenwriters called for cinemas in the United Kingdom to boycott Seret, an Israeli film festival, in an open letter published by The Guardian on Thursday. Supporters include Leila Sansour, Prahitbha Parmar, Ken Loach, and Mike Leigh.
The filmmakers are upset with the festival due to events from two months ago, when the United Nations Human Rights Council concluded that Israeli soldiers committed “war crimes or crimes against humanity” toward Palestinian participants in the Great March of Return in Gaza. The protest was held to demand that Palestinian refugees be allowed to return to Israel and to oppose the decade-long air, land and sea blockage Israel has imposed on the Gaza strip.
Movement of goods and people is severely limited under the blockade, while exporting and importing raw materials are mostly banned. The demonstrations were meant to be peaceful, according to the organizers, but on May 14 Israeli forces killed 59 Palestinians. The UN commission also reported that people with disabilities and children were targeted during the protest.
Seret is funded and supported by the Israeli government and some pro-Israel advocacy associations. One cinema will even hold a fundraising screening for Tzofim Garin Tzabar, which encourages non-Israelis to join the Israeli army. “But none of this appears to disturb the cinemas involved in the festival,” the letter says.
This is not the first time the festival has come under controversy. The Guardian published a similar open letter in May 2018 which was signed by 36 filmmakers. It called for cinemas to not give a “regime that is guilty of systematic and large-scale human rights violations” the spotlight.
The co-founders of the festival, Patty Hochmann, Anat Koren, and Odelia Haroush, penned their own open letter in response to the call for the boycott. The response letter did not openly mention the events of the Great March of Return. Rather, the co-founders believed that “Israeli films are acknowledged as some of the best in the world” and showed surprise that there is a boycott against screening Israeli films in the United Kingdom. It concludes with the founders saying that they “look forward to welcoming film lovers from every community and faith.”
The festival will run in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cambridge, London, and Brighton from April 29 to May 12.