The cultural attaché at the Israeli Embassy in France, Anita Mazor, threatened to withdraw support for the Israeli Film Festival in Paris if its management stands by its decision to open the event with a festive screening of Udi Aloni's film 'Forgiveness.'
The festival, which opens for a week on March 21, already announced the screening of the film to a select list of French intellectuals, artists, and journalists including the philosophers Bernard-Henri Levi and Alain Finkielkraut, who have agreed to attend. The cancellation of the film may arouse, according to festival coordinators, a criticism of illegitimate censorship and of the interference of the Israeli diplomatic staff in artistic activities for unrelated political reasons.
The festival's spokesperson, Emily Muati, confirmed the matter:
“Udi Aloni’s film was supposed to open the festival, but it appears that this will not happen due to political pressure applied on us by the cultural attaché in Paris. In conversations that we had with Anita Mazor in a large forum of people she said that if the film opens the festival, the embassy would boycott the event.
"There were also hints of removing the support for the festival. Mazor understood that we did not intend to cancel the screening of the film and indirectly requested that we play down its presence.”
According to Muati, when she asked to know why there was such firm opposition to the screening of 'Forgiveness,' she was told that it is an “anti-Israel film that gives Israel a bad name. It is better not to bring shame”.
Muati added: “The cultural attaché stressed that it is not her intention to tell us what to do and that the festival does not belong to the State of Israel
but she said that the pressure was massive and that it would be better to screen 'Aviva, My Love,' a non-damaging film that speaks more to the Jewish community.”
In addition, Ynet learned that the office of the festival in Paris received a few threatening notices from representatives of the Jewish community in France.
“The first notice said that Shulamit Aloni’s son was someone who brings trouble to the Jews and that it would be better for us not to participate with people like that. The second notice, which was harsher, said that if we screen the film we had better watch out”.
The festival manager, Charlie Zerihan, preferred not to comment on the matter.
Muati said, “The choice of 'Forgiveness' as the opening film was a professional artistic choice, and not an attempt to create a sensation. The screening of the film generated a lot of interest among sources that support the festival such as the European Arte channel. The Israeli Film Festival in Paris has a small budget and fights for its survival, we are in effect restrained by the embassy.
Scene from 'Forgiveness'
"Udi Aloni’s film is a poetic and sensitive film and its screening shows the world that in Israel there is room for every opinion. The fact that the cultural attaché and the Foreign Ministry are working against the screening portrays Israel in a bad light and that is unfortunate.”
The Israeli Foreign Ministry reported that it would check into Muati's complaints.
The director of “Forgiveness”, Udi Aloni, said: “It was very important to me to screen the film specifically at the Israeli Film Festival in France which speaks to the Jewish community, because the Jews in France are moving away from the humanistic sources that glorified them, from Emmanuel Levinas to Jacques Derrida, and are choosing in its stead a right-wing Islamaphobic stance.
"I have no intention of playing into the hands of the Israeli Embassy and therefore I chose not to withdraw the film from the festival. The decision of the professional committee of the festival to open the event with my film was an honor for me. And yet I have a certain sense of discomfort serving as a fig leaf for the festival. The embassy and Foreign Ministry are playing into the hands of those who call for a boycott of events that are supported by the State of Israel and that is regrettable."
On the other hand, Aloni’s film, which premiered at the Wolgin competition at the International Film Festival in Jerusalem, will close the Jewish Book Fair in London next week. The film will be screened in the presence of the director after a panel discussion on the subject “forgiveness and retribution” in conjunction with American theorist Professor Judith Butler.
'Forgiveness,' which won the support of the noted theorist Slavoj Zizek who also garnered support for the film, tells the story of a young American Israeli who joins the IDF and finds himself admitted to a psychiatric institution, which mainly treats Holocaust survivors. The ghosts of the dead haunt the hospital, which sits on the ruins of the Palestinian village of Dir Yassin whose residents were killed during the War of Independence.
The main character delves into his trauma and sets out on a journey in search of love and redemption that moves between New York and Israel. The cast of the film includes Itay Tiran, Clara Khoury, Makram Khoury, Moni Moshonov, Ruba Blal, Tamara Monsour, and the dancers from the Bat Sheva troupe.