British filmmakers call on theater chain to cancel Israeli film festival
JERUSALEM (JTA) — A group of British filmmakers and actors called on a British movie theater chain to cancel an Israeli film festival.
The 39 members of the film industry, including British directors Aki Kaurismäki, Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, made their call to the theaters to refuse to host the London Israeli Film and Television Festival in an open letter published Monday in the British daily The Guardian.
The festival is scheduled to open on Thursday.
“This festival comes in the aftermath of the wanton destruction and killing in the Gaza Strip by the Israeli military in 2014, and the re-election of an Israeli prime minister who denies Palestinians their equal rights and self-determination,” the letter read in part.
“The festival is co-sponsored by the Israeli government via the Israeli embassy in London, creating a direct link between these cinemas, the festival screenings and Israeli policies. By benefiting from money from the Israeli state, the cinemas become silent accomplices to the violence inflicted on the Palestinian people. Such collaboration and cooperation is unacceptable. It normalizes, even if unintentionally, the Israeli government’s violent, systematic and illegal oppression of the Palestinians,” said the letter, directed at Curzon Cinemas, Odeon Cinemas and the Bafta Theatre.
The film industry letter writers said that this was not a request to refuse to show Israeli films, but to “reject the involvement and financial support of the Israeli state” and to not participate in the festival.
The decision to host the festival “comes at a time when the global boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel is gaining unprecedented momentum,” the letter writers stress.
The Curzon Cinema chain said in a statement to The Guardian: “Curzon Cinemas hosts many festivals throughout the year, including the Human Rights Watch film festival, the London film festival and festivals representing regions from around the world including the Kinoteka Polish film festival, the Romanian film festival and many more.
“We have not previously considered asking questions about the funding of a festival booked at one of our cinemas, and we do not consider booking a festival as any kind of political comment.”