Judges fume as Israeli film pulled from Iraqi Kurdistan festival competition
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Judges fume as Israeli film pulled from Iraqi Kurdistan festival competition

Organizers say measure due to ‘regional complications’; jury protests by refusing to announce a winner for the best international feature film

ARBIL, Iraq — A film festival in Iraqi Kurdistan has removed an Israel movie from its official competition, prompting the jury to protest by refusing to present a top award.

Israeli director Yona Rozenkier’s “The Dive,” which portrays three brothers carrying out their father’s last wish, was screened this month at the Duhok International Film Festival in northern Iraq.

But festival organizers said Saturday they had “unwillingly” withdrawn the film from the world cinema competition “due to regional complications and considerations.”

The move led the jury to refuse to announce a winner for the best international feature film, saying in an online statement the change to the selection “compromised our ability to make a final decision.”

Jury president Kristian Feigelson said in a separate statement that the film’s withdrawal was the result of “political pressure coming officially from Baghdad.”

But Iraq’s culture ministry denied interfering in the festival.

“We have not been contacted by the organizers of the festival and we have not been involved at any level in the holding of this event,” a ministry spokesman told AFP.

Like all but two Arab states, Iraq does not formally recognize the State of Israel and the countries are technically still at war.

Last year a former Miss Iraq caused a scandal by taking a photo with Miss Israel.

But Israel has far better relations with Iraqi Kurdistan and was the only country to support the autonomous region’s independence referendum last year, which was branded illegal by Baghdad.

Earlier this week an Israeli judo team competing in an Abu Dhabi international contest were permitted to participate as a recognized national team. The delegation won two gold medals, leading to the the Israeli national anthem being played twice during winners ceremonies. Israel’s Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev was in Abu Dhabi during part of the contest and presented one of the gold medals.

The playing of the Israeli national anthem and Regev’s attendance at the tournament were the latest milestones in Israel’s gradual rapprochement with some Arab states.

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