Sunday, September 6, 2009

Anti-Israel Letter Sent to Toronto International Film Festival

I spoke with my mother on the phone earlier today. She told me the 34th Annual Toronto International Film Festival is being targeted by anti-Israel protesters because the festival is spotlighting films from Tel Aviv in honor of the city's 100th anniversary.

An open letter was submitted to festival organizers that was signed by, amongst others, Jane Fonda, Danny Glover, David Byrne of The Talking Heads, writer Alice Walker and Eve Ensler of The Vagina Monologues fame. The letter itself was drafted by, amongst others, anti-globalization activist Naomi Klein and Canadian filmmaker John Greyson.

My mother told me that Greyson withdrew his short film Covered from the festival and will instead organize a screening at the Toronto Palestinian Film Festival which begins later this month. This is precious when you consider that Greyson is openly gay and his films deal with homosexuality. The Palestinian Authority isn't exactly known for its gay friendly attitude. Greyson would be wise to read an article written by Yossi Klein Halevi for The New Republic in August 2002 that described the plight of gay Palestinians. If he did he would discover that if you are gay in the Palestinian territories and want to live you go to Israel.

The letter accuses organizers of being "complicit in the Israeli propaganda machine." It describes Tel Aviv as having been "built on destroyed Palestinian villages" also absurdly evokes imagery of South Africa during the Apartheid era:

Looking at modern, sophisticated Tel Aviv without also considering the city’s past and the realities of Israeli occupation of the
West Bank and the Gaza strip, would be like rhapsodizing about the beauty and elegant lifestyles in white-only Cape Town or Johannesburg during apartheid without acknowledging the corresponding black townships of Khayelitsha and Soweto.

Yet there is a film about Jaffa playing during the festival titled (what else?) Jaffa.

It is clear that Israeli filmmakers are being judged by their nationality not by the content of their works.

The Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 1o-19.


home staging Toronto said...

This protest really surprised me. I don't think it was right and good at all. It is just a shame that people are judged just because of their nationality. Seriously, sometimes I feel like we are living in middle ages.


Anna said...

The protest started when John Greyson with a short film withdrew it with great fanfare.

What none of the media has mentioned, is that if you go to the Toronto Palestinian Film Festival site, John Greyson is listed as on their "Advisory Board".

Also of interest, is that unlike the many of Toronto film festivals, all of the films of the Palestinian Film Festival are extremely political and that the festival and all of their films would not exist if it wasn't for taxpayer funding through the Ontario Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Council.