Religious Crowd at Israeli Festival Demands Film Be Stopped Over Kissing Scene

Several audience members protested loudly during a scene showing a man and woman kissing, while some left the hall and demanded the film be halted

The scene from 'Home Test' that angered religious viewers
Itay Marom

A religious audience interfered with the screening of a short film during a film festival in Lod on Thursday, after seeing a scene with two characters kissing – and demanded that the festival’s organizers stop the film.

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A few members of the audience in a screening of Chen Shumowitz's "Home Test," which played as part of the Social Film Festival in Lod, protested loudly during a scene at the beginning of the film that shows a man and a woman kissing.

Others left the hall and demanded the film be halted, and one attacked the director and cursed her, Shumowitz told Haaretz.

Director Chen Shumowitz
Agam Shuster

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“Home Test” was awarded the festival’s prize for best short film soon before the screening. Short films were screened before longer features, and “Home Test,” which is about domestic violence against women, was shown on Thursday before the festival's closing film, Eliran Malka’s “The Unorthodox,” a fictionalized account of how the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox Shas party was formed.

As the scene played out, murmurs and talking began in the theater. One woman shouted out to demand the screening be halted. “Everyone out of the hall, it’s shameful what is going on here, stop the film now,” said the woman, according to Shumowitz.

“The film was ruined but the screening continued, at the same time as words such as: ‘I’m not willing [to see] it, shame, abomination, disgusting, you should be ashamed.’ If only they had remained and listened they would have discovered the film was about violence against women,” wrote Shumowitz on her Facebook page.

When Shumowitz left the hall, a bit shocked, she found a group of religious men and women demanding to stop the film, who then proceeded to shower her with insults, she said.

“For the first time I personally felt what religious coercion is … Facing me I saw words of hatred, complete scorn and a lack of respect for the other in the name of God,” she wrote. “After eight minutes the film ended and most of the inciters entered [the hall]. I remained outside shaking and in shock.”   

Lior Benisti, the director of the film festival, said: “The Social Film Festival in Lod is being held for the fourth year with events and screenings for diverse communities. Like the city of Lod is multicultural, so are the films representing different and broad issues. This year there were five days of screenings, 10 films and a large number of events. Over 5,000 people attended the festival."

Benisti apologized if any of the viewers were offended, adding that "the purpose of the festival is to encourage social thinking and action and to create quality culture in Lod."