Festival defends Israeli film showing
In what seems to be a pre-emptive announcement, Shane Danielson the Edinburgh Film Festival Artistic Director has defended the decision to show the Israeli documentary 5 Days (Chamisha Yamim) and explained the decision behind the declining of funding from Israel to allow the filmmaker, Yoav Shamir, to travel to the Festival.
In a statement on the EIFF site today, Danielson states that the funding is nothing out of the ordinary and is just the same as any other country funding their filmmakers attending festivals. Despite this, they have declined the funding due to recent events in Israel and have offered Shamir direct funding from the EIFF budget to attend the film festival.
However Danielson is clear, regardless of attendance the film will be shown, and explains why...
We don't believe that is in the public interest to ban these films, just because they happen to be from a state with whose official policies one might not agree. Indeed, we do not believe in banning work from any country - particularly work which takes a critical or interrogatory stance on its government. This path leads only to censorship...
...if we considered America to be an evil imperialist empire, and chose to show no American films, what about a Michael Moore documentary? Or a Noam Chomsky portrait? What of the dissidents, the protesters, the public intellectuals? We would no more prevent a film from Israeli from screening here, than we would agree to an Israeli demand to withdraw any Palestinean or Lebanese films from our programme.
Wise words indeed, and I wholeheartedly agree with him, and his closing statement is a superb piece of writing of which I am quite jealous...
No one learns anything from banning films, any more than we might from censoring books; it only cultivates ignorance and prejudice. When, on the contrary, what is needed is enlightenment and education.
Wonderfully said. Danielson also makes the good point that the filmmaker is in fact a strong critic of his government's policies. His previous film Checkpoint (Machssomim) took a similar stance and was shown at EIFF in 2003. He even points out that the vast majority of Israeli made movies shown at EIFF over the past decade do in fact take this same stance.
I have to applaud this statement, which appears to have been made without prior accusations, almost as a pre-emptive statement. His words ring true about my own beliefs of cinema and all literature. Indeed I was planning to see this movie from the very moment it was announced, and recent events make me want to see it even more. Look out for the review.
What do you feel about this statement and Danielson's words? Do you think the right things have been said and done in this case, or do you really believe the film should have been removed from the programming? If so, please do explain your reasons why.