The Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival, or simply TLVFest, has run every year since 2006. Multiple times in recent years, there have been calls from Palestinian rights groups to boycott the festival over its funding from the Israeli Ministry of Culture. This year, that call has been more potent than ever, and more than 130 queer people from the film world have signed a pledge agreeing to boycott the event.
“As filmmakers, film artists and production companies committed to LGBTQIA+ liberation, we understand that our liberation is intimately connected to the liberation of all oppressed peoples and communities,” the pledge reads. “We stand in solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people for freedom, justice, and dignity. We shall do no harm to their liberation struggle.”
In response to calls from Palestinian queers to boycott the Israeli government-sponsored LGBT film festival TLVFest, we pledge not to submit films or otherwise participate in TLVFest or other events partially or fully sponsored by complicit Israeli institutions until Israel complies with international law and respects Palestinian human rights.
Notable signatories of the pledge so far include recent Turner Prize winner Charlotte Prodger, Cannes Film Festival honoree Alain Guiraudie, and trailblazing Canadian director John Greyson. A number of Korean filmmakers have signed the petition, with EBS International Documentary Festival Grand Prix winner Minji Ma stating, “In Korea I constantly learn of these pinkwashing issues, so I have tried my best to engage in the BDS movement. Israel is burying its head in the sand, so I couldn’t just wait and see. I signed the pledge in order to deliver the message that I am strongly opposed to pinkwashing. I send Palestinians solidarity with all my heart.”
Officials from TLVFest have yet to respond to the petition. The 2020 edition of the festival is set to run June 4 through 13.
More than 130 LGBTQIA+ filmmakers and film artists from 15 countries have signed a groundbreaking pledge committing not to participate in TLVFest, the Israeli government-sponsored LGBT film festival in Tel Aviv.
The signatories affirm that LGBTQIA+ liberation “is intimately connected to the liberation of all oppressed peoples and communities” and commit “not to submit films or otherwise participate in TLVFest” or other Israeli government sponsored events “until Israel complies with international law and respects Palestinian human rights.”
Palestinian queers have called for a boycott of TLVFest due to its role in Israel’s pinkwashing agenda, which uses LGBTQIA+ rights to project a progressive image to cover up Israel’s grave violations of the UN-sanctioned human rights of millions of Palestinians.
Signatories include Turner Prize winner Charlotte Prodger, Palme d’Or nominee Alain Guiraudie, award-winning documentary filmmaker Harjant Gill, Touch of Pink director Ian Iqbal Rashid, producer and Lambda Literary Board president Amy Scholder, Tribeca Nelson Mandela Award winner Thomas Allen Harris, renowned scholar, AIDS historian and screenwriter Sarah Schulman, EIDF Grand Prix winner Minji Ma, award winning filmmaker Emmanuel Moon-chil Park, Seoul Human Rights Film Festival director Hyun Lego Park, award winning director John Greyson,Elle Flanders and Tamira Sawatzky of the award winning collective Public Studio, Governor General Award winner Adrian Stimson, award winning video artist Richard Fung, America in Transition director Andre Perez, Catherine Gund of Aubin Pictures, director and screenwriter Raquel Freire and Adelina Anthony and Marisa Becerra of AdeRisa.
Film scholars Alexandra Juhasz, Thomas Waugh, Alisa Lebow, Marc Siegel, Shohini Ghosh, So Mayer, Ingrid Ryberg, Chris Berry and Michele Aaron also signed the pledge.
Over the past few years, more than twenty participating filmmakers have supported calls from Palestinian queers and civil society organizations to withdraw from TLVFest.
This pledge marks a new, proactive stand by film artists in solidarity with Palestinian queers and the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality.
Award winning filmmaker John Greyson commented:
I signed the pledge because queer and other Palestinians are asking international filmmakers to take a stand, just as was done in the fight against apartheid in South Africa. Despite eleven years of calls to reject government funding, TLVFest has fought to maintain it, at the expense of queer Palestinians. In the future, I do hope that I’ll be able to screen my films at TLVFest, when they stop pinkwashing and publicly uphold Palestinian rights under international law as a necessary step towards achieving a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians. Until then, I hope others will also sign the pledge.
TLVFest has enlisted Creative Community for Peace (CCFP) to counter the call from Palestinian queers. CCFP is a front group for Stand With Us, a right-wing, pro-settlement lobby group tied to the Israeli government. Stand With Us has allied itself with the homophobic pastor John Hagee and his organization Christians United for Israel.
French director and Palme d’Or nominee Alain Guiraudie said:
I support the boycott of TLVFest. The Israeli government has imprisoned the Palestinian people for decades, colonized them, stole their lands and resources, denied them their right to exist as a nation. The plight of the Palestinians is the great scandal of the beginning of this century. All cultural initiatives allow Israel to develop respectability, an image of an open and tolerant state. The boycott now remains the only instrument for the international struggle against Israeli policy, the only instrument that I have in order not to be complicit in this oppression of an entire people.
South Korean filmmaker and EIDF Grand Prix winner Minji Ma, said:
In Korea I constantly learn of these pinkwashing issues, so I have tried my best to engage in the BDS movement. Israel is burying its head in the sand, so I couldn’t just wait and see. I signed the pledge in order to deliver the message that I am strongly opposed to pinkwashing. I send Palestinians solidarity with all my heart.
Queer and trans communities are increasingly refusing to be tokenized and used by Israel as cover for its oppression of Palestinians, queer and non-queer alike. Last year, more than 100 LGBTQIA+ groups around the world called to boycott the Eurovision Song Contest in Israel and Israeli government-sponsored Tel Aviv Pride.
A group of more than 130 names from the film world, including at least 100 LGBTQIA+ filmmakers and film artists, have signed a pledge to boycott TLVFest, Tel Aviv’s government-sponsored LGBT film festival, in what they say is solidarity with Palestinian members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
The pledge was organized by Palestinian queer organizations and PACBI, the academic and cultural arm of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement, a pro-Palestinian activist group that seeks to cut, among other things, global cultural ties with Israel in protest of the country’s treatment of Palestinians in Israel and the the occupied territories.
Among the signatories are Turner Prize winner Charlotte Prodger, Palme d’Or nominee Alain Guiraudie, award-winning Indian documentary filmmaker Harjant Gill, U.K.-based Touch of Pink director Ian Iqbal Rashid, Portuguese director and screenwriter Raquel Freire, award winning avant-garde filmmaker Su Friedrich, Tribeca Nelson Mandela Award winner Thomas Allen Harris, acclaimed scholar, AIDS historian and screenwriter Sarah Schulman, award winning Canadian director John Greyson and Governor General Award winner Adrian Stimson, Elle Flanders and Tamira Sawatzky of Public Studio, Award winning video artist Richard Fung, America in Transition director Andre Perez, Catherine Gund of Aubin Pictures, and Adelina Anthony and Marisa Becerra of Latinx production company AdeRisa.
Film scholars Alexandra Juhasz, Thomas Waugh, Alisa Lebow, Marc Siegel, Shohini Ghosh, So Mayer, Ingrid Ryberg and Michele Aaron have also signed the pledge.
According to the signatories, LGBTQIA+ liberation “is intimately connected to the liberation of all oppressed peoples and communities” and commit “not to submit films or otherwise participate in TLVFest or other events partially or fully sponsored by complicit Israeli institutions until Israel complies with international law and respects Palestinian human rights.”
Now onto its 15th edition, the 2020 TLVFest is due to take place June 4-13. According to the campaigners, there have been decade-long efforts to engage with the the festival, but it continues to maintain a partnership with the Israeli Ministry of Culture. As such, they claim that the TLVFest is being used as part of “pinkwashing efforts,” using LGBTQIA+ rights to “project a progressive image while denying the rights of all Palestinians, queer and non queer alike.”
The pledge, claims PACBI, marks a “new, proactive stand by queer film artists in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice, and dignity.”
Culture has become a growing battleground for pro-Palestinian activism. In recent years, singers Lorde and Lana Del Rey were on the receiving end of widespread praise and condemnation when they announced they were pulling out of concerts in Israel, while Madonna sparked headlines at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest final in Tel Aviv when her performance featured a dancer wearing the Palestinian flag. Filmmakers including the likes of Ken Loach have long vowed to boycott any event that received funding by Israeli authorities.