"The Dive," an Israeli movie directed by Yona Rozenkier, was kicked out of a movie festival held in the city of Dohuk, Iraq, because of political pressure.
The festival website announced on Monday that it had to expel the movie from the international contest against its wishes, and "deeply apologized" for the incident.
The movie had won four awards at the most recent Jerusalem Film Festival, including best movie and best first movie. It had already been shown twice at the Dohuk festival, which is in the Kurdish part of Iraq, and has also been screened in Locarno, Switzerland and Toronto, Canada.
The movie tells the story of Yoav, who returns to the kibbutz of his childhood on the burning Lebanon border to bury his father, a year after dissociating himself from his family. When his younger brother, a soldier in the standing army who is slated for service on the border, develops worrying signs of anxiety, the older militant brother tries to educate him using the dead father's violent methods. The abandoned kibbutz becomes the playground of the three, but a tragic incident sends things spiraling out of control.
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Rozenkier commented that even though the movie had been ejected from the festival, the important thing is that it had been shown in Iraq, which is incredible in and of itself.
He said he would like to very much thank the managers of the festival, and its artistic managers, who chose it though knowing it would trigger a storm.
"The movie was ejected from the competition only because of terrific political pressure and a threat to cancel the festival entirely on the spot, despite the resistance of the festival managers and regional Kurdish government," Rozenkier said, adding that it just shows politicians should be left outside art. "It shows the danger hovering over us from laws such as the 'cultural loyalty bill', and withholding funding from art institutions," he said.