Ajami Co-director Ahead of the Oscars: I Don't Represent Israel

Culture Minister on Scandar Copti's comments: Ajami would not be at Oscars without Israeli support.

Haaretz Service
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Ajami co-director Scandar Copti on Sunday said that he does not represent Israel, hours before his film competes for the best foreign film Oscar at the Academy Awards, Army Radio reported.

"I am not Israel's national team and do not represent her," Copti reportedly said. "It is an extremely technical thing and that's how it works at the Oscars - it says 'Israel' because that's where the money comes from."

He added that the film, which is co-directed by Copti and Israeli director Yaron Shani, features a mixed cast.

"There's a Palestinian director, an Israeli director, Palestinian actors and Israeli actors. The film technically represents Israel, but I don't represent Israel. I cannot represent a country that does not represent me," he said, according to Army Radio.

Culture Minister Limor Livnat condemned the comments, noting that the film had received government funding. The Israeli film academy nominated Ajami for the Oscar.

"Without the support of the country, Copti would not be walking on the red carpet tonight," Livnat told Israel's Army Radio. "It is sad that a director who was funded by the country is alienating those who helped him create and express himself."

On Saturday, hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Jaffa to denounce what they see as increased police violence.

"We are calling out, together, against violence - violence from the police," said Gabi Abad, head of the Arab Jaffa organization.

"The body that is supposed to protect us is attacking us... We tell the police - we are against violence, especially against the innocent," he added.

Among the demonstrators were family members of Ajami co-director Copti. His mother, Mary, on Saturday demonstrated outside Jaffa's police station.

"It's confusing," she said, when asked how she felt ahead of the Oscar ceremony. "We're angry but strong... Perhaps Scandar's success strengthens us more. If we got as far as we did, and [in view of] the potential of those who participated in the movie - it only shows that we [are entitled to] our rights. No police or racism will intimidate us."

Mary Copti joined the hundreds demonstrating against "police violence" in Jaffa Saturday because, as she says, her heart is in Ajami.

Scandar Copti's brother, Jeras, who was arrested last month by police, claimed that the arresting officers used excessive force against him, including spraying pepper gas in his eyes after he was already cuffed and bound. He said he and his brother Tony were trying to prevent police from arresting a number of children in Jaffa who were suspected of hiding drugs. According to the Copti brothers, the children had merely been burying the body of their pet dog.

"We are not leaving Jaffa," Jeras Copti said, "no matter what they do to us if we stay."

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