A total of nine artists and filmmakers have joined the BDS movements call to boycott the Tel Aviv LGBT International Film Festival (TLVFest), running from May 31 to June 9.
The move also follows calls from the Pinkwatching Israel, which defines itself as “a global movement against Israeli pinkwashing and for BDS,” for groups to refuse to participate in the festival, in line with the academic and cultural boycott on Israel.
More good news! Boycott of Tel Aviv #LGBT film fest gains momentum. Nine artists, filmmakers have now withdrawn in support of call from Palestinian LGBT collective @pinkwatcher and BDS allies. We urge remaining artists to withdraw from TLVFest. https://t.co/UgTEzuMqCU pic.twitter.com/xvzEf3cphZ— PACBI (@PACBI) June 1, 2018
Israel uses “Pinkwashing” as a strategy to show itself as an LGBTQI friendly country, reinforce the “only democracy in the Middle East” narrative and divert attention from its massive violation of human rights against the Palestinian population, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.
The first wave of cancellations was spearheaded by Brazil's activist Linn da Quebrada, one of the country's most prominent voices of the working class black LGBT community, who was supposed to take part on the festival's June 6 Queer Party.
“Knowing that in Israel there are also people who suffer from oppression over their bodies and desires, I decided to cancel my participation, joining the cultural boycott that has grown in the last few months around the world, as a form of protest against Israel and its genocidal policies over Palestinians,” said da Quebrada.
At the same time, directors Claudia Priscilla and Kiko Goifman withdrew their documentary film “Bixa Travesty,” a biographical film of da Quebrada that was granted the Teddy Award on the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival.
“We decided to BOYCOTT TLVFest due to our profound disagreement with Israel’s genocidal policies. We canceled the participation of the film 'Bixa Travesty.' ENOUGH MASSACRES. Respect for the Palestinian people” wrote Goifman on his Facebook site.
The Brazilian director Cali dos Anjos and producer Bia Medeiros also withdrew their short animation film “Tailor” from the festival “out of respect for the Palestinian people.”
Also, the Pakistani Aks International Minorities Festival decided to withdraw its short film program and participation in the festival.
“Aks has long promoted human rights and stands in solidarity with activists from Palestine, particularly queer Palestinian activists, to oppose the violation of Palestinian civil rights by the Israeli government.”
Following calls from French and Palestinian queer activists, the French director Sylvain Coisne called off his participation from the festival and issued a statement on Facebook explaining his reasons.
“I decided to remove my short film 'Dylan Dylan' from the TLVFest screenings, in support of the public call of LGBT for Palestine movement. I want to stand by fellow filmmakers who publicly criticize Israel's violent politics through the boycott of state-funded events. Financing LGBT festivals is important but not to use it as a tool for the 'Brand Israel' strategy of pinkwashing," he said.
However, his short-film still appears on the schedule, as the festival organizers said that tickets had already been sold and that the screening would go on against his will. Other filmmakers are facing a similar position as the festival has refused to remove their films from the schedule.
In response to the waves of cancellations, the festival director Yair Hochner said that “whoever canceled, canceled. As far as we are concerned the festival will continue normally,” suggesting that programmed films would screen anyway.
After the first cancellations, the French directors Oceane Michel and Cyprien Vial also tried to withdraw their film “Embrasse-Moi!,” scheduled for two screenings, without success.
“I wrote to the Festival two days ago but my message seems not to have been understood as my movie is still listed on the program," Océane wrote on Facebook.
"I stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people and express my total disagreement with Israel's policy towards Palestine. For this reason, I refuse to take part in the pinkwashing strategy of the Israeli government. I want my movie withdrawn from the festival,” he added.
The Spanish actress and writer Fabia Castro said she decided to withdraw her film “Tres” after learning “about the very serious situation of oppression Palestinians live under, a regime of colonialism and apartheid.”
“I refuse to let my art be used to whitewash Israel's image. … I reject attempts by Israel to use the rights and struggles of LGBTQ+ people to normalize their image…” said Castro.
Spanish director Dany Campos also announced that he is withdrawing his “Flaw” short film from the “B Shorts” category.
The wave of cancellations in support of the BDS movement against Israel's occupation and apartheid policies follow days of massacres committed by the occupation forces in which more than a hundred Palestinian protesters were murdered, and more than 13,000 were injured.
“Over the last 10 years, the number of international gay tourists in Israel has increased tenfold, from 6,000 in 2005 to over 60,000 in 2016,” writes Haneen Maikey, co-founder and director of AlQaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society. “This is not the result of any exceptionally vibrant nightlife, but owing to this deliberate and admittedly effective government-sponsored propaganda campaign to make cynical use of gay culture to mask, or to 'pinkwash,' its ongoing violence against the Palestinian people.”
Maikey welcomed this year's cancellations at the festival, saying that “there is a greater awareness worldwide about how Israel uses LGBTQ rights to justify its violent policies,” and regretting that the festival has refused to comply with the filmmakers' requests to withdraw their films from the festival.
Hind Awwad, from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), said that many directors were not aware their films were screened at the pinkwashing festival due to “contractual agreements with distributors who place the movies in international festivals without necessarily checking with filmmakers.”
“Distributors should respect the wishes of directors who support the cultural boycott of Israel. The tide is changing for the support of Palestinian rights in the art world. The industry should reflect these changes,” said Awwad.
When director John Trengove decided to cancel his participation on 2017 edition of the festival, the TLVFestival administration sent him a letter regretting his decision, saying the festival doesn't participate in the government's pinkwashing agenda and that they care to screen films by Palestinians.
"Although the leader of the BDS movement think that art cannot change a reality, we do believe that we can change the politics of this complex place in which we live," wrote Hochner, but he even suggested the boycott had homophobic reasons.
"We will not give in to anyone and to any organization that acts violently against a film festival that fights for its life only because it is a LGBT fesitval," he wrote.