Vancouver Gay Film Fest Bans 'Overt Nationalism' in Wake of Israeli Flag Controversy

Ad in last year’s guidebook for the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, placed by the local gay Jewish group Yad b’Yad, featured a gay pride flag alongside an Israeli flag, leading to accusations of 'pinkwashing.'

 A gay film festival in Vancouver has banned “overt expressions of nationalism” after organizers came under fire over an advertisement featuring an Israeli flag.

The advertisement in last year’s guidebook for the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, placed by the local gay Jewish group Yad b’Yad, featured a gay pride flag alongside an Israeli flag. That led to accusations of “pinkwashing,” the supposed tactic of using Israel’s support for gay rights to divert attention from its treatment of the Palestinians.

Following the ad’s publication, two directors withdrew their films from the festival and the festival donated the ad revenue to a third party, the Canadian Jewish News reported.

“We now have stronger policies that will enable us to make sure all our partnerships reflect our values and allow us to focus on bringing people together through film,” Shana Myara, the festival’s director of programming, told the newspaper.

Jonathan Lerner, spokesman for Yad b’Yad, told the CJN that the festival’s revised policies are a form of censorship.

“The VQFF has proactively and very publicly weighed into the Arab-Israeli conflict,” Lerner said. “Its specific policies are aimed at silencing proud supporters of the LGBTQ community and of Israel, all while remaining silent on the plight of gays and lesbians in places such as Iran, Syria, China and even the Palestinian Authority. One can only judge the VQFF by its very public actions and obvious inactions.”

Lerner also said that under the revised policies, Israeli films could only be included in the festival if they sought to create “critical dialogues about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Israeli occupation,” the Shalom Life news website reported.

The festival will run from Aug. 13 to Aug. 23.