Europeans Urge Israel to Keep Funding LGBT Festival in Tel Aviv

The managers of 14 LGBT film festivals throughout Europe protest a change in Israel’s criteria for funding film festivals that would shut down smaller events.

A group of European organizers of LGBT film festivals recently sent a letter to Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat, urging her to keep funding TLVFest, Tel Aviv's annual film festival featuring LGBT offerings.

Organizers of TLVFest have called on their supporters to write Minister Livnat, her spokesperson, Or Doron, and David Alexander , head of the Israel Film Council, after the latter proposed changes to the criteria that allow for cinema organizations to receive funding. The TLVFest website warns, "The very existence of TLVFest is in danger. We need your help!"

According to the proposed change, only film festivals whose budgets are at least NIS 500,000 would receive public support under the Law for the Encouragement of Israeli Films. The budget for last year’s TLVFest was NIS 430,000.

The festival's founder and director, Yair Hochner, writes on the site: "Why limit the support [to] the three biggest Israeli film festivals, which have countless contributors and strong finances as it is."

Hochner says that changing the funding criteria would “completely eliminate TLVFest, and many other small, underground, and more daring festivals, and hurt the communities who desperately need them.”

The managers of 14 LGBT film festivals in various European cities – including Madrid, Brussels, Copenhagen, Milan, Amsterdam, Prague, London and Hamburg – agree with Hochner andf took the time to write Livnat.

“It is with great dismay that we read that new funding rules threaten the existence of a festival which plays an important role in the queer cultural calendar: TLVFest – The Tel Aviv international LGBT film festival,” reads the letter.

“Many of us were surprised that Yair Hochner, who we knew as a filmmaker, decided to start a queer film festival in Tel Aviv," the letter continues. "It wasn’t long before we were impressed by the quality of the event and its importance on the world queer film festival calendar. In just seven years, TLVFest has become not only one of the most important and critically received film festivals in Israel, but has achieved significant resonance in Europe and beyond.”

The European festival managers also point out that the festival provides critical support to Israeli filmmakers – through various content and pitching contests.
“This is not a festival that can rely on corporate sponsorship," the letter says. "And the gay community needs more than nightclubs; it deserves cultural events of significance that directly support its artists. If Israel wants to continue to be seen as supporting diversity and a pluralistic gay community then the Israeli Film Council must support this festival.”

According to the TLVFest website, last year’s event screened more than 150 features and short films in 76 different programs, and welcomed 30 guest filmmakers from all over the world (Indonesia, Japan, Turkey, Denmark, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Germany, France, the U.K. and the U.S.). Thirty percent of the festival’s content comprised new Israeli cinema.

Nir Kafri