Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev (Likud) has asked Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to reexamine government funding for the Haifa film festival, raising objections to two movies scheduled to be shown at the event.
The films "undermine our values and our symbols," Regev wrote, and therefore "require an examination as to whether the festival is violating the law," alluding to a law that authorizes the finance minister to withhold funds from institutions that host events or people that deny Israel's right to exist.
Regev had approached Kahlon a number of times in the past over the past two years with similar requests, but he has refrained thus far from most requests to deny funding.
The latest request was about a film called "Out," directed by Alon Sahar, and Daniel Wachmann's film "Acre Dreams."
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"I approach you again, and not for the first time, to deal with the absurd reality in which the activity of entities supported [by government funding] and which harm the State of Israel, its values and symbols is not being dealt with," Regev wrote.
When the Knesset reconvenes, Regev intends to introduce a cultural loyalty law, which she said would "prevent [government] support for those who turn the stage and the public screen into a Fifth Column undermining our values and symbols," she also wrote.
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"Out," which was shown at the Locarno film festival in Switzerland, tells the story of Guy, an Israeli soldier who has just finished his army service and joins a right-wing group that is seeking to harm the reputation of human rights activists.
"Acre Dreams" documents the work of a Palestinian director who directs a play about a love story between a Jewish woman and Arab man at the end of the period of the British Mandate but it is met by opposition from Arabs and Jews.
Alon Sahar told Haaretz the following in response to Regev's request: "The trolling of the creators of films in Israel that resonates with the Culture Ministry is a worrying phenomenon that is an indication of weak freedom of expression in a country that pretends to present itself as a democracy."
"I am used to the smear tactics, I've been there as a social activist. In fact, this is exactly what 'Out' is about. The movie is an attempt to create a portrait of a character based on my own nemesis in real life."
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel said: "Instead of threatening the cultural world with draconian laws and budget cuts, whose sole aim is political spin, Minister Regev is invited to buy tickets to these films and in this way lend her support for local cinema."