Docaviv film festival in apartheid Tel Aviv rocked by cancellations in closing week after BDS appeals

Cíntia Gil, Director of Sheffield Doc/Fest among four international participants to withdraw

Docaviv – the Tel Aviv International Documentary Film Festival 2020 closes this week, with notable cancellations from four international filmmakers and guests.

The apartheid Tel Aviv festival, taking place largely online, is partnered with the far-right Israeli government's Ministry of Culture and Sports and the Tel Aviv municipality. It also acknowledges the support of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Among those withdrawing from the festival, as a result of private appeals from supporters of the cultural boycott of Israel, are Cíntia Gil, Festival Director of Sheffield Doc/Fest, and Danish filmmaker Eva Marie Rødbro, whose feature-length documentary I Love You I Miss You I Hope I See You Before I Die was withdrawn from Docaviv’s Depth of Field competition.

Gil, also an Executive Board member of Apordoc, the Portuguese Documentary Film Association and the former Director of Doclisboa, confirmed to Comité de Solidariedade com a Palestina that she had withdrawn as a Docaviv festival juror.

This followed private appeals from the Comité and anti-racist organisation SOS Racismo Portugal, citing the call from Palestinian filmmakers and wider civil society for the boycott of Israeli cultural institutions that are complicit in Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights.

In addition to Eva Marie Rødbro, another international filmmaker withdrew their film from the festival’s programme, and one other international guest of the festival cancelled their participation, both declining to be named at this time. 

All four filmmakers and guests who withdrew had been approached privately by supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian human rights and cancelled their involvement as a result of those appeals. 

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has verified each cancellation alongside partners in Denmark, Portugal and elsewhere. All four participants have been removed from Docaviv’s programme.

In 2014, actor and activist Danny Glover was among those condemning the inclusion of the film American Revolutionary: the Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs in Docaviv’s 2014 edition, writing, “we stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine”. In 2019, Moroccan filmmaker Nadir Bouhmouch refused to accept an invitation to submit his film to Docaviv.

Alia Malak, of PACBI, said:

“We thank each international filmmaker and guest who has withdrawn from Docaviv 2020 over its complicity in art-washing Israel’s brutal regime of apartheid, occupation and settler-colonialism, and in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Thousands of artists, including many filmmakers and LGBTQ+ film artists have publicly endorsed -- and many more have heeded -- the boycott of complicit Israeli cultural institutions, recognising their ethical duty to do no harm to nonviolent struggles for justice, and refusing to art-wash Israel’s war crimes and violations of international law.

Docaviv has never taken a stance in favour of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, as stipulated in international law. It even failed to speak out when Israeli fighter jets deliberately bombed and destroyed the Said al Mishal cultural centre in Gaza, including its children’s cinema.

Despite the best efforts of the so-called “Creative Community for Peace” -- a well-funded, thinly-veiled front for the far-right Israeli government and its lobby -- support for the peaceful BDS movement continues to grow among artists and diverse communities worldwide. We urge all international film and TV workers to join them.”

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) is a founding member of the Palestinian BDS National Committee that leads the global BDS movement.


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