The Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers of “The Gatekeepers” and “5 Broken Cameras” were snubbed by Israel’s emissaries in Los Angeles ahead of Sunday’s Academy Awards.
Both films, which were dubbed as critical of Israel but received funding from the state, competed for the Best Documentary Feature but lost to “Searching for Sugar Man.”
Unlike in previous years, in which the consulate general of Israel in Los Angeles hosts the crew of Israel’s entrants to the Oscars, this year’s filmmakers weren’t invited to a festive reception before the awards show, according to the Israeli daily Maariv.
The French consul to Los Angeles, Axel Cruau, held a reception for “The Gatekeepers,” in conjunction with the Israeli Consulate, at his Los Angeles home.
“Although the Foreign Ministry recommended a reception, we considered the various aspects of such an event and decided that the welcomed interaction with the French envoy was just the thing that was needed,” Israel’s consul general in Los Angeles, David Siegel, told Maariv.
Dror Moreh, director of “The Gatekeepers,” a documentary that features rare and remarkably candid interviews with the six living former heads of the Shin Bet domestic intelligence service, was criticized by a senior Likud official for selectively editing the statements of the former Shin Bet chiefs in order to convey a “Palestinian narrative.” Moreh denied the allegation, and said he and his film represented Israel, not the government of Benjamin Netanyahu. The film has been widely hailed by critics and audiences for Moreh’s achievement in extracting candid interviews, about the dilemmas of protecting Israelis’ well-being, from men accustomed to keeping silent.
“5 Broken Cameras,” directed by the Israeli-Palestinian duo Guy Davidi and Emad Burnat, is a personal record of Burnat’s West Bank village of Bil’in’s confrontations with Israeli soldiers at the security barrier, and is openly and relentlessly critical of Israel.
Siegel said that Davidi and Burnat had denied that their film had any connection with the state of Israel and weren’t interested in being hosted by the consulate. Siegel added that Davidi had also called for a boycott of Israel. “I would like to know, if Davidi calls for a boycott [of Israel], does he also call for a boycott of the foundations in Israel that financed his film?” he asked, rhetorically.
Naftali Bennett, head of the national religious Jewish Home party, distanced himself from Davidi and Burnat’s movie. “The Israeli film — the anti-Israeli film — ’5 Broken Cameras’ didn’t win an Oscar. I didn’t shed a tear,” Bennett tweeted Monday morning.
In four of the past five years, the Israeli films that were nominated for an Oscar were in the Best Foreign Film category — which meant they represented Israel — whereas this year the nominations were in the documentary discipline, Siegel noted.
He added that the filmmakers behind “Strangers No More,” an American production that tells the stories of asylum-seeking and migrant children who attend the Bialik-Rogozin School in south Tel Aviv, were not hosted by the consulate two years ago either.
After the awards show, Davidi said he wasn’t surprised by Israel’s reaction to the film, or that he and Burnat came away empty-handed from the awards show, but said the film was important to the Palestinian struggle.
“Imad [Burnat] hoped to bring this movie as a reward for the struggle in the West Bank against the [separation] fence, and I imagine [the struggle of] Palestine and of the Palestinians,” he told Ynet news. “This let him down. It’s a disappointment, but that’s life.”
He added that he’d been following the debate over the film in Israel. “We’re talking about a documentary film, the images are real, as are the people who occupy public office. This is a lot of noise… I think that they’re trying to create some kind of outrage against freedom of expression, which is something you can’t take away. If they managed to take it from us, it would be a tragedy for the state. Personally, I do not think I have to be concerned about it.”
Davidi admitted, however, that the abusive messages he’d seen on Facebook and other sites were painful. “It’s not pleasant,” he said. “People have their pain, their anger, and there are those who have developed a real hatred — which is not easy — but I can’t say I was surprised.”