Barred from awards, minister uses Facebook pulpit to slam film industry

Miri Regev posts address taking aim at Ophir organizers for excluding her, steps up attack on big winner ‘Foxtrot’

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Culture Minister Miri Regev in a mock TV address posted on her Facebook page and timed to coincide with the Israel Film Academy's Ophir Film Awards to which she was not invited, September 19, 2017. (YouTube screenshot)
Culture Minister Miri Regev in a mock TV address posted on her Facebook page and timed to coincide with the Israel Film Academy's Ophir Film Awards to which she was not invited, September 19, 2017. (YouTube screenshot)

Culture Minister Miri Regev responded Tuesday to her exclusion from the Israeli film academy’s biggest night by broadcasting a speech on her Facebook page in which she excoriated the “small clique” dominating the Israeli film industry and repeated her pledge to cut public funding for films which, in her view, present a negative image of Israel.

The address came as the film “Foxtrot,” repeatedly slammed by Regev as anti-Israel, swept the Academy of Film and Television’s Ophir Awards ceremony, the local equivalent of the Oscars,  and a year after she walked out of the gala in protest of the recitation of a poem by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.

Regev began her address with sarcasm, saying she had come to applaud
Samuel Maoz’s film “Foxtrot” — which won the prestigious Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival on Saturday — as well as Darwish and fellow Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour.

Regev stormed out of last year’s Ophir awards, charging that the poet had denied Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. Organizers this year had said they would not invite politicians to avoid a repeat of last year’s protest.

Tatour is an Israeli Arab poet who is under house arrest for allegedly supporting a terror group. The indictment against her cites one poem — “Resist My People, Resist” — which she posted on Facebook, and three other posts, one of which cited an Islamic Jihad call on Palestinians to rise up to protect the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish seen during a signing for his new book in Amman, Jordan, February 23, 2008 (AP/Nader Daoud)

Israeli Film Academy chairman Mosh Danon said earlier this week that the decision not to invite Regev, or any other politician, to the ceremony was to ensure that the focus was on the film industry.

But for Regev, this was a decision that “my voice, which represents most Israelis, will not be heard.” She slammed the academy for “another cheap, lying attempt,” to exclude her, and for resorting to “the language of incitement.”

The awards ceremony was like a wedding to which the bride had contributed NIS 400,000 ($114,000) but to which the bride — the State of Israel — was not invited, she went on.

As Foxtrot started to scoop up prizes at Ophir, Regev hit out at its makers for “daring” to present IDF soldiers killing Arabs at a checkpoint.

“You know the Israel Defense Forces,” she told Facebook viewers, “how moral our soldiers are, what a Garden of Eden we’ve created in the dark and conflict-ridden Middle East.”

The filmmakers, however, had dared to “call this terrible blood libel a metaphor,” she said. “We’re not blind and not deaf and definitely not stupid to understand what this metaphor says about Israeli society and our people’s army.”

“Foxtrot” is a potent parable about fate and peoples’ powerlessness to direct their destinies.

The film opens with an affluent Tel Aviv couple, played by Lior Ashkenazi and Sarah Adler, being informed their soldier son has died in the line of duty.

The parents are floored by grief, and the film has more shocks in store for them as it explores the way trauma scars individuals and societies, and ripples across generations.

Regev said she was not criticizing “Foxtrot,” which she has said she has not and will not watch, because she was against freedom of speech but because she was against the “freedom to twist the image of the IDF and to do so with the [financial] support of the Israeli public.”

Director Samuel Maoz receives the Silver Lion – Grand Jury Prize for his movie “Foxtrot” during the award ceremony of the 74th Venice Film Festival on September 9, 2017 at Venice Lido. (AFP PHOTO / Tiziana FABI)

There was, she went on, “nothing more legitimate than the Israeli public not funding films which slander our state.”

Regev promised that the current agreement between the government and the film industry would change when it came up for renewal next year.

In March, she 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.

AP contributed to this report

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed