Ari Folman, Nadav Lapid Among Israeli filmmakers protesting the new fund

Ari Folman (Waltz With Bashir), Nadav Lapid (Ahed’s Knee) and Hagai Levi (Our Boys) are among a group of 250 Israeli filmmakers who have signed an open letter to oppose the recent launch of the Shomron to protest (Samaria/West Bank) Film Fund.

The fund, which held its first film festival in the occupied West Bank in July, was founded by Miri Regev, Israel’s controversial former culture minister who has been heavily criticized in the local film community for her right-wing views. Regev is said to have put pressure on the Israel Film Fund to exclude films critical of Israel from subsidies.

The signers of the public letter said they will not seek funding from or work with the Shomron (Samaria/West Bank) Film Fund and have urged the Israel Academy of Film and Television to refrain from “whitewashing the occupation” before the Ophir to attend Awards, the country-specific version of the Academy Awards, later this month. The filmmakers claim that the Shomron (Samaria) Film Fund has one goal: “to invite Israeli filmmakers to take an active part in whitewashing the occupation in exchange for financial support and awards.”

The official mandate of the Shomron (Samaria) Film Fund is to “distribute grants to Jewish settlers living in the West Bank (“Judea and Samaria”) and to Israeli citizen productions filmed in the West Bank.” This means that the 2.5 million Palestinian residents of this occupied territory are not allowed to apply for this fund.

Here is the full letter (translated from Hebrew):

“Israeli cinema is not used to gloss over the occupation

“In July 2022, the opening ceremony of the Shomron (Samaria) Film Festival called for bringing the Israel Academy of Film and Television’s Ophir Awards to the occupied West Bank. The festival was supported and attended by Minister of Culture Chili Tropper, the heads of the Israel Film Council, the heads of the Rabinovich Film Fund, distributor Moshe Edery and the Israel Screenwriters’ Guild.

What stands behind this inaugural festival, as well as behind the recently established Shomron (Samaria) Film Fund, is not a love of culture, but a policy aimed at erasing the green line and the distinction between military and civilian regimes [i.e. normalizing the settlements]. It is therefore not surprising that this political foundation is led by Esther Allouche, Spokesperson for the Shomron, Samaria Regional Council and Yossi Dagan, Chair of the Shomron, Samaria Regional Council. Both the foundation and the festival invite Israeli filmmakers to take an active part in whitewashing the occupation in exchange for production funding and prizes.

[** Shomron is the Hebrew word for Samaria – which is the Biblical name of the land currently known in the world as the northern West Bank. Referring to these areas as “Judea and Samaria” is a nomenclature developed and used by Israel’s settlement enterprise and national religious movement.]

“The establishment of the Shomron Film Fund has been accompanied by statements about the need for diversity in Israeli art and the need to give expression to marginalized voices. While this is a worthwhile goal, the term “diversity” becomes meaningless when, in practice, it masks systematic violence and gross human rights abuses. The Shomron Fund is not a pluralistic fund – it is an integral part of the mechanisms of apartheid [**open to one ethnic group (Jews) and closed to another (Palestinians) living in the same geopolitical area (the occupied West Bank).]

“Filmmakers bear responsibility for the image of the societies in which they live. In an ongoing reality of occupation and a creeping process of annexation, we have to draw a red line.

We, the undersigned, hereby declare that we have no current or future association with the Shomron Fund. Not in his workshops, not in his selection committees, not in our filmmaking. Nor will we agree to holding the “Ophir Awards” in an area subject to military occupation.

“We call on the Israel Academy of Film and Television, its leadership and members as a whole, not to make Israeli cinema another tool of oppression against the Palestinian people.” Ari Folman, Nadav Lapid Among Israeli filmmakers protesting the new fund

Charles Jones

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