Israel to boycott opening of Israeli film fest in Paris
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Israel to boycott opening of Israeli film fest in Paris

Culture minister said to pressure Foreign Ministry to withdraw its support from the festival over its showcasing of 'Foxtrot'

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev seen with fans before the start of the match between Beitar Jerusalem and Bnei Sakhnin F.C., at the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem on January 22, 2018. (Roy Alima/Flash90)
Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev seen with fans before the start of the match between Beitar Jerusalem and Bnei Sakhnin F.C., at the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem on January 22, 2018. (Roy Alima/Flash90)

Israel’s embassy in France will boycott the opening ceremony of the Israeli Film Festival in Paris, after organizers refused Jerusalem’s requests to showcase a film other than the controversial “Foxtrot.”

Culture Minister Miri Regev has been pressuring the Foreign Ministry to withdraw its support for the March festival altogether, the Haaretz daily reported.

“Foxtrot” centers on parents’ grief for their fallen son, and includes a scene in which IDF soldiers cover up the murder of four Arab youths. Regev, who has admitted to never having seen the film, has repeatedly lambasted the film, saying it “shows Israeli army soldiers in a deceptive manner as murderers and harms the good name of the Israel Defense Forces.”

The production won the Ophir, Israel’s top film prize. It was also among the movies submitted for the best foreign-language Oscar, but failed to make the final five nominee list.

The embassy’s decision to boycott the opening ceremony came after organizers declined the request of an Israeli envoy, Aliza Ben-Nun, that they choose a less controversial film, the Walla news site reported.

One of the festival’s directors told the news site that she had also been approached last month by the embassy’s cultural attaché, who asked her to pull the film because Regev “didn’t like it.”

“I watched the film and found nothing political about it. It is a symbolic, metaphorical film,” Helen Schumann said. “In any case, in the past, we screened more controversial films in the festival, such as ‘Waltz with Bashir,’ and Israel did not say anything.”

Schumann also claimed that the Foreign Ministry’s funding for the festival had already been transferred. While she recognized that the organizers were placing funding for next year’s festival at risk, this year’s event was not in danger of being canceled.

An Israeli soldier does a mock dance with his rifle in ‘Foxtrot.’ (Sony Pictures Classics)

‘Waltz with Bashir,’ an animated film nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars in 2008, showcases the director’s own experiences as a soldier reflecting on the Sabra and Shatila massacres during Israel’s 1982 Lebanon War.

In a statement explaining its decision to direct Ben-Nun to boycott the opening, the Foreign Ministry said that while “the embassy does not intervene in the artistic considerations of the festival’s management,” it had requested that the organizers chose a new film “more suitable for the festive opening evening, which will include an audience of Jewish donors.”

“The festival’s management, due to its own considerations, chose not to accept the recommendation. Therefore, the Foreign Ministry ordered the ambassador not to be present at the opening ceremony,” the statement concluded.

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