Jerusalem Film Festival Under Fire After Pulling Rabin Assassin Documentary

Festival's withdrawal of film on Yigal Amir, under threat of defunding from Minister Regev, outrages many in cinema circles.

Tomer Neuberg

Many filmmakers are up in arms over a decision by the directors of the Jerusalem Film Festival to succumb to pressure by Minister of Culture and Sports Miri Regev and remove a film about Yigal Amir, Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin. The film will be screened in the documentary section, as a compromise.

The Film and TV Directors Union will convene Thursday morning to discuss ways of responding to the decision. The forum of documentary filmmakers is also considering possible action, and some filmmakers are calling on directors whose films were included in the festival to withdraw their movies in protest over the intervention of the minister in matters of content.

Gidi Orsher, a film critic and member of the Israeli Film Academy, wrote on his Facebook page that: “Lia Van Leer [the festival’s founder and manager], who died just recently, would have told Miri Regev to go to hell, but the current festival’s directors are obviously made of different stuff. Therefore, Israeli film and documentary directors, if you have a shred of respect for this profession, for culture, for Lia Van Leer and for morality – remove your films from this ridiculous competition lest you catch this contagious disease of apathy. Making excuses and giving explanations later, while trying to fix things, will be too late.”

Orsher added: “Since when do we disqualify a movie because of its content, expressing opinions without seeing it? Even a movie about an extreme right wing villain, produced by an artist, is worthy at least of being shown and watched.”

Another posting by director Uri Rosenwaks, former head of the forum for documentary filmmakers, stated, “Even though I have no film at the festival this year I think that others should withdraw their work due to the blatant intervention in the program by Regev, and because of her threats to the festival’s management.”

He added that a minister can’t just walk around slashing at things that are deemed unsuitable, threatening to cut financing. “This movie will be available on the Internet anyway. This is a critical juncture for Israeli culture, which should have the role of posing challenges and fostering debates. Otherwise we’ll be left with only ‘Big Brother’. A strong society can handle such a movie as well as a play based on a Palestinian murderer’s life.”

Members of the directors’ union want to hold a discussion about withdrawing movies from festivals. They are divided over the decision, with several of them supporting the minister’s right to decide on the use of public funds. Others argue that movies should be dissociated from public funding, with funding coming perhaps through taxation of Internet usage and its infringement of artist copyrights.

Some directors vowed not to present their films to future Jerusalem Film Festivals. Prizewinning director Ra’anan Alexandrowich said, “Amir has a central role in the current disastrous situation, but my worldview holds that even his opposing one should be represented through a cultural medium. Silencing cultural expression will leave only culture that pleases the regime.”