Israeli envoy to snub Paris film festival over contentious movie
Culture Minister Regev outraged to learn controversial film 'Foxtrot' will be screened at the festival's opening night; Foreign Ministry instructs ambassador not to attend event, after efforts to convince organizers to select another movie have failed.
Samuel Maoz's "Foxtrot" is a drama exploring Israel's West Bank occupation and the modern Israeli psyche. It has come under fire from Culture Minister Miri Regev, who has said the film "slanders" the military.
The Foreign Ministry said Sunday that Ambassador Aliza Bin-Noun would not attend the festival's opening night event, when the film would be screened.
Bin-Noun had attempted to convince organizers to choose a film that "is not controversial and suits a festive opening night" which "Jewish donors" are expected to attend.
But the festival, being held next month, declined the ambassador's request.
The Israeli film festival is just one of 300 cultural events planned for 2018 as part of a joint Israeli-French initiative, with the Israeli government allocating NIS 6 million for the project.
As part of the initiative, which is the Israeli Embassy in Paris's flagship project, French cultural events will be held in Israel and Israeli cultural events will take place in France.
Regev learned of the decision to screen "Foxtrot" at the festival on Wednesday during a meeting with Bin-Noun.
"It is not appropriate for the State of Israel to support a festival giving a stage to movies that slander us around the world and contain lies about the IDF's soldiers and Israeli citizens," Regev said.
Regev instructed her ministry's director-general to stress to Foreign Ministry Director-General Yuval Rotem that it was unacceptable for his ministry's Division for Cultural and Scientific Affairs to allocate funds to the festival.
She also said she would update Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as the foreign ministry, asking him to instruct the Foreign Ministry to withdraw all support from the festival.
Following Regev's intervention, the Foreign Ministry instructed Ambassador Bin-Noun not to attend the festival's opening ceremony, even though the embassy in Paris had already provided the festival with financial support.
"The Israeli Embassy in France has been proud to support the Israeli film festival in Paris since the day of its establishment. Over the past 18 years, many films were screened at the festival, representing the variety in Israeli filmmaking, the freedom of expression, and the pluralism of Israeli society," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The ministry went on to say that while "the embassy normally does not interfere with the festival organizers' artistic considerations and respects Israeli films and filmmakers invited to take part," the organizers' refusal to select a different film led to the decision to snub the opening night.
"Foxtrot" is a parable about fate and peoples' powerlessness to direct their destinies.
The film opens with an affluent Tel Aviv couple being informed their soldier son has died in the line of duty. The film later explores the way trauma scars individuals and societies, and ripples across generations.
"Foxtrot" has won the Grand Jury Prize award at the Venice Film Festival in 2017 and the Ophir Award for best film.
Regev has not watched the film. "I find it outrageous that Israeli auteurs are contributing to inciting Israel's younger generation against the world's most moral army," she said, "slinging lies under the guise of artistic expression."