Friday, September 11, 2009

Film festival courts controversy


"Moviegoers who were hoping for world class cinema at this week's Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) may find themselves at the centre of a growing controversy steeped in international politics......

....the TIFF this year introduced the City to City programme, a new theme to its traditional programming grid, "that will explore the evolving urban experience while presenting the best documentary and fiction films from and about a selected city."

Festival organisers say they have chosen Tel Aviv to be the focus of the inaugural edition of the programme......

Filmmaker boycotts

Canadian filmmaker John Greyson, who has been a regular guest at the festival, decided to withdraw his latest documentary, Covered, in protest at the choice of Tel Aviv as the TIFF's spotlight.

"From start to finish, the spotlight is a champion of Israeli cinema and an erasure of Palestinian voices. It is something that all of us could not stomach," he told Al Jazeera.

In an open letter to the Festival's organisers, more than 65 prominent cultural figures including actors Jane Fonda, Viggo Mortensen, Harry Belafonte, and Danny Glover expressed their discontent that the internationally acclaimed festival, "has become complicit in the Israeli propaganda machine," by choosing to celebrate Tel Aviv's modern history.

They said that celebrating Tel Aviv in such an eminent setting "would be like rhapsodising about the beauty and elegant lifestyles in white-only Cape Town or Johannesburg during Apartheid."......

In 2005, more than 100 Palestinian civil society groups and NGOs called for an international campaign for Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israeli institutions modelled on a similar campaign used to end Apartheid in South Africa.

Since then, "Israeli Apartheid Week" has been held annually on several Canadian university campuses......"

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