John Greyson has, in effect lit a match to a highly inflammable emotional underbrush (taking the lead from the great filmmaker and btw splinter-Trotskyite-party-member Ken Loach) which now has festival organizers and filmmakers scrambling to put out brushfires before this becomes a conflagration on a par with L.A.'s recent fires.
Irresponsibly, with poorly thought out rationalization, he is inflaming deeply held emotions which can untrack not only TIFF but all consecutive festivals and the entire community of artists with an issue which has been causing wars for the last 5,000+ years.
Filmmakers' and artists' ideas and passions belong on the screen allowing the rest of the public to share well thought out and well planned works which can be discussed, reviled or beloved on a case by case basis.
This action endangers not only the public, as the man in the theater who yells “Fire!” but also the areas of artistic freedom, freedom of choice and the 5th human right, the right to be different.
People are forced to sign the petition as if answering the attorney’s question, “Do you still beat your wife?”. If they don’t sign, does it mean they are pro Israeli government?
Even Arab filmmakers whose films will discuss these and other issues (as will the Israeli films) resent the attention being pulled away from their films by this emotional appeal.
John Greyson should be fighting his own battle which judging by his recent short deals with the anti-gay (another basic human right violation) sentiment and he should leave this one alone. Of course he has the freedom to choose his battles and I am not the one to dictate his actions.
Variety link to John Greyson’s statement, “I'm concerned to hear that other filmmakers are being harassed regarding their participation in TIFF. I pulled my short film out of TIFF as a personal statement of principle, and in the hopes that my action would "shine a spotlight" on this deeply troubling Tel Aviv Spotlight. I certainly didn't call for a larger boycott, or expect other filmmakers to follow suit and pull their films. (Indeed, given the realities of global film production and distribution, and the importance of TIFF as a sales market, it's hard to think of any director of a feature length film who would have the luxury of that option!)” Variety article September 6, 2009 entitled Toronto slate angers Arab filmmakers,Tel Aviv program raises furor by Ali Jaafar
He should have thought of these consequences when he made his statement so publically.
Denouncing Tel Aviv Focus, Filmmaker Pulls Out of Toronto FestPosted September 2, 2009 IndieWire:
Sure enough, someone had to jump into the act of "Denouncing Tel Aviv Focus". "Filmmaker Pulls Out of Toronto Fest" - indieWIRE: "Ten days before it’s set to kick off, the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival has found itself in the midst of some controversy. Canadian filmmaker John Greyson (“Lilies,” “Fig Trees”) has withdrawn his short film “Covered” - a doc about the 2008 Sarajevo Queer Festival, which was cancelled due to anti-gay violence - from this year’s lineup due to a disagreement with the festival’s program spotlighting films from Tel Aviv."
I hate to have predicted it in my earlier blog, but I did fear someone would come up and kick the ever unpopular whipping dog, Israel. And John Greyson, fighting censorship and citing anti-gay violence as his enemy, turns about and goes for enacting the same censorship that hampers him.
We too hate the reactionary right but disagree that Tel Aviv, Israel and Israeli filmmakers should be censored because their government is so wrong-headed. What about the many Americans who had to suffer under Bush until Obama was elected? So many Israelis are suffering, are progressive, are even represented by the Israeli film industry in their harsh criticism of their reactionary government. Why stifle the progressive filmmakers' voices in the name of ... in the name of what exactly? Shame on John Greyson! Shame on Ken Loach! Shame on minorities censoring other minorities in the name of.. in the name of what exactly?
Freedom of expression and freedom of choice to program or not to program, freedom vs. censorship! Whenever a group is singled out for attack, a bigot is lurking and trying to round up many other individuals into a mob. A nation is made of many individuals who do not deserve to be tarred with the same feathers of the reactionary so-called leaders running their government.