Unhappy with pulling of film

August 28, 2013 by  
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I write in response to your article “Film withdrawn from the Israeli Film Festival” written by a faceless “J-Wire Staff” member…writes Elizabeth Venzin.

As a supporter and also sponsor of the AICE Israeli Film Festival since its inception, I was saddened and dismayed by the decision made by Albert Dadon to cancel screenings of the film Inch’allah on the basis of one letter of complaint. This is quite simply a blatant act of censorship and wholly unacceptable.

We often hear the proud boast that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. Unless I am very much mistaken, this therefore facilitates differences in opinion. Yet David Schulberg, in his letter to AICE chairman Albert Dadon, is unhappy with the content of the film, citing “stereotypical symbols of Israeli brutality” and “distorting and distending the facts on the ground” resulting in the film contributing to a, to him more accurate, label of an “Anti-Israel Film Festival”. This, to Schulberg, is a sufficient reason to call upon the film to be withdrawn, a view endorsed by Dadon.

Schulberg seems to have taken it on himself to be the voice of “widespread opinion” objecting to the film’s inclusion in the festival based on attendance at the Q&A in Melbourne. Or so he says – such a claim is not substantiated and people I know who attended the Q&A indicated that 50% of the audience were very much in favour of the film. The Israeli actress Sivan Levy, who appears in the film, endorsed its content – much to the dismay of many objectors.

But that endorsement mattered not to Schulberg – he did not like the film and therefore demanded its removal. It may be that the director was one of the signatories of the boycott of Israel and Inch’allah therefore filmed in Jordan.  But Israel and Israelis are involved in the feature. Yet Schulberg even managed to diminish this in his determination for censorship.

According to him, one of the most respected film and television production houses, July-August, the Israeli company involved in the film, is nothing more than “an international production company that has some Israeli backers”. Based in Tel Aviv, July-August, responsible for award-winning films such as The Band’s Visit, Seven Days, The Champagne Spy and all seen here in Australia, became part of a Munich–based consortium a couple of months ago. The German company is part-owned by Israelis. All this, of course, is omitted from anything Schulberg writes. By implication, Schulberg is hinting that there is no real Israeli sensibility in the film and therefore has no right to be in the festival. Ask Sivan Levy that question!

Israel may not come out of this particular film smelling of roses. There again, nobody does. But the strength of the festival is to not attempt to promote a one-sided message. For a decade, the diversity of values, views and opinions through screening extraordinary films, showing all aspects of Israeli life and society, has been its strength. But it appears Schulberg (and Dadon) do not accept this and now prefer to see a Zionist rose-tinted perspective.

You may ask who am I to comment. I have a father who survived the Holocaust, I have a brother who was born and lives a Sabra and has served his life as a General in the IDF. I have worked for five years as a CEO of the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce (during which time I worked tirelessly to have the festival extended through Australia.)

What message has this given to the general population of Australia?  Is to acquiesce to a few protests with such an undemocratic decision effectively not an insult to those who have already purchased tickets?  Is it not anathema to any film festival? As thinking adults they had made a decision for themselves to watch the film. Instead, a censorial decision has patronisingly been made on their behalf and the film withdrawn. No thinking for ourselves allowed.

In closing I can only hope this occurrence will not impact on the future of the festival. That rose-tinted Zionism is now likely to result in the motives of the festival being questioned and will not go down so well with the wider audience. There are many of us who have an open view of the world and who appreciate the stories from all sides.

Sadly it’s the extremists who ruin it for the rest of us.

Comments

26 Responses to “Unhappy with pulling of film”
  1. john says:

    As someone who did not have the opportunity to see the festival films, I nevertheless wish that all correspondents would have kept more closely to the content rather than the organizer .

    Personally I am not sure whether I would have been happy with a film such as the one being discussed here.
    However I can state unequivocally that Ms Venzin has worked hard, privately and professionally for many years on behalf of advancing Israel’s case here in Australia.

    Just as democratic Israel is a broad ‘church’ encompassing many shades of beliefs and opinions, so should our community also allow the same.

    Ms Venzin’s heart and intentions should never be put in doubt.

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      John

      we are dealing here with what we are offered and, let me tell you, it ain’t that pretty and convincing in the way you allude.
      You should know that anti Israel propaganda has attained quite sophisticated means of late, now cinema is one of them. I have no idea how many movies you have seen in your life, and I mean apart from the Disney Studios productions, but the notion of using the art of cinematography as a vehicle for promoting let’s say anti Semitism, which today purports to be dignified as anti Israel, or anti pink lens Zionism, as your protégée contents here, has quite a “respectable” tradition.
      This obvious Jew hate trash is but one of the latest examples and, to relate to your defense of your friend, her heart and intentions are ostensively by her own admission and persistence right behind this cynical cinematic szar ( a very befitting Hungarian word, used because it sounds good sequentially; ask your informed friends ).

  2. Aaron says:

    I look on the issue with a totally different perspective. This film would have certainly offended and insulted me, as such it would breach my rights under the racial discrimination act.
    The Racial Discrimination Act makes it unlawful to insult, humiliate, offend or intimidate another person or group in public on the basis of their race, including national or ethnic origin.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I write in response to the comments posted to my letter, many of which greatly concerned me.

    I acknowledge that I wrongly stated that David Schulberg had called for the removal of the film from the festival and the reason it WAS removed, as decided by Albert Dadon, was that it was not an Israeli film and therefore should not have been scheduled.

    But considering the Tel Aviv-based July August Productions was a producer (“in association with” according to IMDb), just what is a bona fide co-production that qualifies for the inclusion in the festival?

    Only one comment below has picked up that the closing night film “Exodus”, a Hollywood take on the founding of the State of Israel, had no Israeli production at all.

    It appears that in this case, the lack of Israel’s direct involvement in the film (apart from the location) has been given a different set of rules to Inch’Allah. This American film would fit perfectly the demand of the poster below who simply believes that Israeli film festivals should by definition support Israel.

    Which leads me, by way of example, to the AICE Australian Film Festival held in Israel annually and which opened a few years ago with the film The Proposition and which I attended in Jerusalem. A “visceral, violent study of blood-ties exploring ethnic and family bonds, feuds, loyalty and betrayal” of 19th century Australia did not result in the baying for blood or demands for the film’s removal. But it was hardly a positive image of Australia.

    I have been a passionate supporter of the Israeli film festival since it began. The festival had grown into a celebration of the output of Israeli film in the last decade, showing films being made by Israeli filmmakers, and not all without their criticism of Israel. Quality rather than propaganda appeared to be the basis of selection.

    But it now seems there are rules that are made to be broken when it suits. No to Inch’allah, yes to Exodus. So is it really about the origins of the film or the image of Israel? Judging by the hostility to my letter, it appears to be more about the image (and yes, Laibl, such a letter would not be written without having seen the film).

    True, as I mentioned before, Israel does not come out of Inch’allah smelling of roses. But it portrays a sense of reality that whilst uncomfortable viewing, is real. This does not make me anti-Zionist as comments have suggested. Nothing could be further from the truth. I just happen to differ in my opinion and not believe in closing my eyes – and yes, David Schulberg, build bridges. Ask the six former Heads of Shin Bet who are interviewed in The Gatekeepers.

    Such “virulent demonizers”, not of Israel, but of people who beg to differ from hard-core, reactionary rants which appear below – “Hey, just a thought, they’d love you there too [Gaza] and none of us Jwire pinky Zionists would disturb you there; ten fingers on my Uzi!!” is just such an example – are the ones who confirm and contribute to anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

    “Ten fingers on my Uzi?” Are you serious? I am judged for my comments by someone wanting to hold his gun at me?

    I rest my case.

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      Elizabeth
      I suggest you simply have a rest, because a “case” you do not have.
      Just peruse carefully your pleas for a variety of matters. They are all predicated on a single dominant theme, that of VICTIMHOOD. Your laundry list of oppressed “items” seems endless.
      From that of unethical censorship, to the detailed accounts of a people oppressed by “occupiers”, the same people who have been responsible for a UNIVERSAL renewal of anti Semitism, the Palestinians, ending with the farcical anxiety of an imminent victim of summary execution at close range with a full magazine emptied into your temples, you regurgitate the same rhetoric devoid of reason.
      What the reasonable reader retains is not a plea for some kind of ethical freedoms – that of expression, free word, free thinking etc -, but a Don Quixotesque attempt at imposing probably the most obscene narrative peddled with impunity in a world excessively tolerant of those freedoms.
      Marching persistently in spirit with the likes of Hamas, the actual producers of the film you are carrying on about, can only be conducive at those perusing your stuff to a feeling of calculated cruelty.
      Look, some people simply reject the unethical peddling of lies and vicious, hateful propaganda against a people, a country which means something entirely different to them compared to you, whatever farcical claims to Zionism you may have.
      Let me reiterate, nobody can force down our throat the rubbish you seem to wallow in. You love it, we don’t, how unclear is that !!!???
      Remember those freedoms ??!!!

    • David says:

      Elizabeth has been content to take on face value that, because July-August productions were involved with the making of Inch’allah, that they qualified to be co-producers of the film. The report in the Jewish News (30/8) was equally unedifying in that the journalist there Danny Gocs wrongly stated that the film was a French-Canadian-Israeli production.

      To set the record straight I rang the office of July-August productions.
      After speaking with one of their producers Yohanan in Tel Aviv I was informed that this company only provided some minor production services, identifying extras and enabling one day of shooting to actually take place in Israel. In a list of feature films on the July-August productions’ website Inch’allah is not mentioned.

      I have pointed out all along that this film was not eligible to be shown at the Israeli Film Festival because it does not represent Israeli cinema in any way. The fact that the film depicts Israel badly is not the central issue and those who suggest that the film’s removal from the festival program has anything to do with censorship need to re-examine their thinking.

      • Otto Waldmann says:

        Sorry David, but I reckon that censorship is a good guy being alert about those who abuse tolerance. In our case we see abusers attempting to insinuate themselves within a set of ethics which does NOT exclude censorship. We do know and accept as practically NECESSARY, that as Israel has been in a continuous state of siege, vigilance of all kinds in all places is an essential element for survival. That includse the exclusion of anything perceived of being inimical to Israel. As part of a pernicious propaganda structure, movies could affect seriously that precious existential balance Israel is seeking. Cinema has no special privileges over and above any other forms of propagating destabilization of those essential existential factors.

  4. Michael says:

    KOl Ha Kavod to Albert for doing the right thing by pulling the Palestinian propaganda film even though it would have been better not to have included it in the fist place however we are all human mistakes happen.

    Once again with the risk of repeating myself to the detractors and hypocrites that would like to see more films like this one critical of the Jewish state, let us know what Pro- Zionist or anti- Palestinians films have been shown at Palestinian, Arab and Islamic film festivals.. if you cant come up with the list please just go away…

  5. George says:

    Sadly, far too many Israeli films denigrate Israel. This is typical, but an aberration, perhaps unique to the ever fractious and fissured Jews (see quote below).

    The point at issue, the primary point over and above the film’s tendentiousness, was that it was not a bona-fide Israeli film, for the several reasons given by David, who has been unfairly demonized, and explained his position extremely well. He simply expressed his concerns to Dadon, and was unwittingly caught up in a sh*i-storm of vilification.

    As for Exodus, once again, that should be taken up with AICE Chair, Mr. Dadon, and not here.

    Isaiah
    49:17
    Thy children shall make haste; thy destroyers and they that made thee waste shall go forth of thee.

  6. Bella says:

    Censorship occurs when one is UNABLE to view a film or read a book because it has been withdrawn FROM ACCESS – usually a governmental action. Pulling a film out of a privately run festival is simply a choice by the private funder. Moreover a Canadian movie with French money filmed in Jordan does not belong in an Israeli festival, which, by definition aims to support the vibrant Israeli film industry.

    Inch’allah has not been censored because anyone else can pay money – as Mr Dadon does – and show it whenever they like. Ms Venzin – the festival was terrific. Diverse films – showing faces of Israel, a variety of views. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did and are returning next year to enjoy the high quality of Israeli film making.

    • Ben says:

      “Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, politically incorrect or inconvenient as determined by a government, media outlet or other controlling body.”

      It can hardly be a privately run festival when it is in the public domain.

      And I am not sure how many times it has to be repeated – the Israeli production company July August was involved in the film. By supporting the vibrant Israeli film industry, the festival is supporting Israeli production houses, of which July August is one of the most successful.

      The festival was terrific, agreed.

  7. Otto Waldmann says:

    Elizabeth
    you write well, good grammar, fairly rich choice of words and at least conflicting personal confessions.
    You see, the relevance of a genuine Jewish ancestry may become devoid of substance when uncontrolled vile and prejudiced outburst of the conflicting kind surface in the same text. The repeated notion of disdain for Zionism in your expression can only affect seriously the more positive traits in your general profile. An Israeli family connection is fantastic, yet utterings of deep seeded anti Zionism – you know the constant pink hateful association – kills an argument which wants to be acceptable by an audience, if you didn’t know, locally quite passionately attached to its pink opticals. So just with a film meant to engross the anti Zionist narrative, the one no doubt enjoyed at your social gatherings, your objections are being projected to an audience which, so evidently, is not enjoying your favorite flicks, nor does your badly scripted dramatic-pathetic complaint scenario.
    And, by the way, the movie is a C triple minus grade trash, excellent though , box office smash in downtown Gaza. Hey, just a thought, they’d love you there too and none of us Jwire pinky Zionists would disturb you there; ten fingers on my Uzi !!

  8. steve says:

    Rubbish!

    Israeli film festivals should by definition support !Israel….not feed the frenzy of antisemitic and antiIsrael crowds.

    the correct decision has been made.

    I DON’T CARE WHO YOU WORKED FOR…YYOU DID GET PAID AFTER ALL….ON THIS OCCASION YOU ARE JUST PLAIN WRONG

    • Ben says:

      Why is that? By definition, therefore, Israeli films should support Israel. Creativity and democratic thoughts and values of the filmmakers negated in the so-called ‘greater good’ of the country. Any criticism of the country and society suppressed. Propaganda only – the very complaint laid at the doors of the film ‘Inch’allah’.

  9. Laibl says:

    Elizabeth, I guess I must therefore be one of the extremists you speak about. By the way, have you seen the film, or is it simply a limitless ‘principle’ you are defending? Would you write the same letter of complaint if the Jewish film festival organizers (or any other denominational/nationalistic Film festival) ‘pulled’ a film by Goebbels promoting Nazism and murder of Jews, or is there no limits on the notion of ‘ absolute free speech’? (If so, then English and European law is in default by prosecuting anyone who yells ‘Fire!” falsely in a theatre, and Australian law immoral for legislating against racism). By the way, I have seen the film, and I think Goebels can indeed learn some subtle tricks from this film in honing skills of falsehood, defamation, slur, and demonization of Israel. Oh, I forgot, but it’s all about free speech. Personally I applaud Mr. Dadon for having the courage to defend the deservedly good name of my people.

  10. Armin says:

    I appreciate your point Albert (and your music even more) but let’s apply the same logic:
    The “pure fantasy” you referred to can be said about EXODUS: A Hollywood movie (“for dummies”) made by an American company with American money who happened to be filmed in Cyprus & Israel.

    Why in this case do you promote a non-Israeli film?

    • David says:

      Armin, you have made a pedantic point. I suggest that, although Exodus is not a direct product of the Israeli cinema, it was shot in large part on location in Israel and was a seminal statement about Zionism that did so much to move American public opinion in the 1960s to support Israel. Hence it deserves a guernsey.

      • Ben says:

        Talk about double standards. Inch’allah is pulled because it’s apparently not Israeli (in spite of an israeli production company’s involvement) and yet Exodus is OK in spite of no official Israeli involvement because it promotes Zionism. Oh boy Oh boy Oh boy. And you call Inch’allah nothing more than propaganda.

        No wonder so many of the goys hate us.

        • Otto Waldmann says:

          See Ben, when you try to impersonate a Yid you should do your home work first. That’s because only yourse “goys” wouldn’t know that we, Jews, call you GOIM and there is nothing we hate more at you “goys” than ignorance turned hatred.

    • Ben says:

      Inch’allah is more of an Israeli film than Exodus.

      IMDb lists 4 production companies for ‘Inch’allah’ – microscope (Canada), International Traders (Jordan), co-producer ID Unlimited (France) and the Israeli company July-August (in association with), as pointed out by Venzin. The film also has Israelis in the cast and crew.

  11. Ian says:

    I agree that it is was appropriate for the film to be withdrawn and Albert Dadon
    was courageous to withdraw the film. As is obvious it is popular and trendy
    to be involved in Israel bashing and there is money to be made with such films. The Greens and other leftist BDS supporters are involved in censorship and boycotting of Israeli academics and tertiary institutions and anything Israeli so why would we waste our time watching such a film.

    .

  12. David says:

    Unfortunately Elizabeth Venzin has totally misconstrued why the film Inch’allah was pulled from the Israeli Film Festival. Refer to my original article at http://www.jwire.com.au/news/film-withdrawn-from-the-israeli-film-festival/36681 and the one to be found now in The Age at http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/movies/it-justifies-suicide-bombing-inchallah-pulled-from-israeli-film-festival-20130827-2snhg.html .
    Firstly I need to clear up some errors Venzin has made using quotes from her article:

    “This, to Schulberg, is a sufficient reason to call upon the film to be withdrawn” – Venzin is falsely claiming that I asked for the film to be withdrawn. That was Albert Dadon’s decision after he became aware of the film’s nefarious aims. I did not “demand its removal” – that is an outright lie from Venzin. I simply asked Dadon to justify the film’s inclusion in the festival program. I say to Venzin that if she believes she has cause to complain about the action that Dadon took to cancel the remaining screenings of Inch’allah she should take them up with him directly.

    “dismayed by the decision made by Albert Dadon to cancel screenings of the film Inch’allah on the basis of one letter of complaint” – I believe there were complaints from a number of people and it would be wrong to suggest that Dadon dumped the film just because of what I told him.

    “blatant act of censorship” – I would reiterate what I said in my original article that the film was NOT an Israeli film as such and that was the primary reason that it should not have been included. Let me repeat that the French Canadian director of Inch’allah was also the writer and she is a pro-Palestinian activist. Nevertheless I have no objection to this film being shown elsewhere.

    “Sivan Levy, who appears in the film, endorsed its content” – Sivan Levy came across naïvely believing that building bridges with Israel’s implacable enemies will solve everything. Pray tell, Venzin, what question am I going to put to Sivan Levy? This young woman enamored by the enchanting world of international cinema production cannot see the wood for the trees.

    Howard Roseman, internationally acclaimed film producer, was also there at the Q&A on the night of the film’s screening that I attended. He affirmed that he thought that the film Inch’allah was terrible. He bemoaned the fact that this year’s festival had such a preponderance of films to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He said there were many other excellent Israeli films being made that weren’t being cast in this overly familiar mould.
    Lastly I would say to Venzin she does not have a patent on “an open view of the world”. If I want to see films like Inch’allah there are plenty of opportunities to do so. Festival goers did not need a piece of rapacious anti-Israel propaganda shoved down their throats. I would agree with her last remark “Sadly it’s the extremists who ruin it for the rest of us” but point out to her that the extremists are like the director of Incha’allah who advocate the boycotting of Israel and its products (which includes Israeli films). These virulent demonizers of Israel are the real culprits.

    • Amy says:

      Mr. David,
      Luckily, I attended the screening at Sydney, before they’ve pulled off the film.
      I was so impressed by Sivan Levy’s generosity, sharpness and Intelligence.
      She spoke about how important to her was to show the sensitivity of the soldiers,
      She was in a war on the border while she was doing her 2 years military service, and she still believe in peace and conversation. I think we have allot to learn from that young lady.
      I assume we look very bad towards the world now.
      Best,
      A.

      • Otto Waldmann says:

        Really, Ms Amy you reckon we, meaning among others the Israeli soldiers, should ENGAGE in “conversation” !!??
        Can you be a bit more specific WHO with and WHAT about !!
        See:
        With:
        a. indelible Jew hating Palestinians
        b. indelible Hamas apocalyptic soldiers of destruction of Israel
        c. indelible Palestinian “peace” negotiators bent on bending truth and ethics

        and talk about what:

        – low cholesterol cooking
        – high organic diet
        – art nouveaux architecture
        – the art of lieder at Schubert, Mahler and Wolf
        – differences between Chopin and Liszt in their piano literature

        your palestinian darlings are right now and have been for decades with fingers on the trigger and more often that not pulling it. That may be the reason they could not practice the piano instead.
        Ms Amy, there is something seriously wrong with your alarm clock !

  13. Albert Dadon says:

    If this was an Italian film festival that was promoting a Korean film because actor were eating pasta in Italy would it qualify to be in the festival.

    Why would it be any different here? It’s a Canadian movie with French money filmed in Jordan.

    Our Israeli Film Festival is here to promote Israeli Films. Anything else is pure fantasy.

    Albert Dadon

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