Culture Minister Miri Regev on Saturday vowed to revolutionize the criteria for state funding of Israeli-made films, and charged that the various local filmmaking funds to which the state has traditionally allocated funding are systematically discriminating against filmmakers from the settlements, the Arab community and the ultra-Orthodox community.
Regev, a longtime critic of ostensible anti-Israel movies produced by local filmmakers, whose current target is Samuel Maoz’s award-winning “Foxtrot,” said that the funding process will be overhauled next year.
“The agreement on cinema [funding] expires next year, and I’m telling you now, what has been going on will not continue,” she said in a Channel 2 TV interview.” There would a surprise for “anybody who thinks that we’ll allocate the budget to the same [local] film funds.”
Regev, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing Likud party, denied that she was aiming to promote a right-wing political narrative. “I don’t distribute [funds] according to left and right [political orientation]. It’s those films funds that work according to left and right. They don’t allow filmmakers from Judea and Samaria, and Arab filmmakers, and ultra-Orthodox filmmakers, to have their voices heard.”
In response, the Israeli Academy of Film and Television called her comments irresponsible and unfounded.” The academy also accused her of “incitement” for saying that Israeli filmmakers incite the world against Israel.
Earlier this week, the Academy announced that it would not invite Regev 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 decision not to invite Regev — or any politicians — to this year’s ceremony was about “respect” for the film industry, said Academy chairman Mosh Danon.
On Saturday, the Academy said it had subsequently invited the minister to discuss how to ensure the event would be a success. Regev, in response, said the Academy had been prepared for her to attend, but only “to sit and applaud.”
Regev has been highly critical of “Foxtrot,” which was awarded the prestigious Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival on Saturday and is up for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Lior Ashkenazi) and Best Supporting Actress (Shira Haas) at the Ophirs.
Regev has denounced the film 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.
Danon said on Tuesday that 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.