After walkout last year, culture minister snubbed by Israel’s Oscars
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After walkout last year, culture minister snubbed by Israel’s Oscars

Miri Regev, who has been highly critical of new movie 'Foxtrot,' calls decision not to invite her to Ophir Awards 'cowardly and undemocratic'

Culture Minister Miri Regev wearing a dress featuring the old city of Jerusalem in Cannes on May 17, 2017 (AFP Photo/Antonin Thuillier)
Culture Minister Miri Regev wearing a dress featuring the old city of Jerusalem in Cannes on May 17, 2017 (AFP Photo/Antonin Thuillier)

The Israeli Academy of Film and Television announced Tuesday that it will not invite Culture Minister Miri Regev (Likud) to the annual Ophir Awards ceremony, Israel’s version of the Oscars, after she stormed out of last year’s awards ceremony in protest of the recitation of a poem by a Palestinian poet.

The organization’s decision not to invite Regev — or any politicians — to this year’s ceremony is about “respect” for the film industry, said the chairman of the Israeli film academy Mosh Danon.

Regev slammed the move.

Danon said the ceremony is the “one day of the year when the theater community shows appreciation and respect to the artist and their creations, and commemorates those among its members who have died.”

“Regrettably, with time the ceremony has changed its character and gradually become an inappropriate wrestling ring that cheapens the event and, even worse, cheapens the artists and the work that it is meant to show appreciation and respect to,” said Danon.

He said that trend was on full display during last year’s ceremony, referring to Regev’s walkout over the recitation of a poem by Mahmoud Darwish, who she said has denied Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. Still, Danon added, the decision to exclude her from Saturday night’s event was not meant as a personal slight.

“It should be emphasized that this decision is in no way indicative of a desire to disrespect the culture minister or any other politician, and should not be construed as an attempt to avoid continued debate about our various profound differences on any other day of the year,” he said.

Regev decried the snub as “a cowardly and undemocratic decision.”

“This decision was only meant for one thing — to prevent the public from hearing my just view that movies that spread lies and slander about IDF soldiers will not be funded from the state budget,” she said.

Since becoming culture minister, Regev has become known for her vocal criticism for anything she considers unbecoming of Israel, whether it’s nudity at the Israel Festival, or films that are critical or disapproving of the state and its government’s policies.

In March, Regev asked the Israeli film funds to provide detailed information about the approval process for films, in an apparent attempt to clamp down on state funding for those movies that are critical of Israel’s policies. Most film funds receive a significant portion of their budgets from the state.

Most recently, Regev has been highly critical of the movie “Foxtrot,” which was awarded the prestigious Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival on Saturday and is up for a number of top awards at the Ophirs.

Director Samuel Maoz, center, and actors Lior Ashkenazi, left, and Sarah Adler pose during the photo call for the film “Foxtrot” at the 74th Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy, Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

The film, a quiet story about parents’ grief, with some unexpected twists and satire, has been sharply denounced by Regev as a defamation of the State of Israel.

“When an Israeli film wins an international prize, the heart fills with pride and my natural desire is to strengthen and encourage the Israeli success,” she wrote. “This rule has one exception — when the international embrace is the result of self-flagellation and cooperation with the anti-Israel narrative.”

Regev took particular issue with a scene during which soldiers commit a deadly war crime.

“The IDF in which I served for more than 25 years had no scenes like this. This is slander, pure and simple,” said Regev, a former chief spokeswoman for the military, who has acknowledged that she has not actually seen the movie.

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