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(Wissam Nassar / Maan Images)

Grace Lee Boggs, Danny Glover object to film screening in Tel Aviv

Philosopher and activist Grace Lee Boggs and actor and activist Danny Glover have denounced the inclusion of the film American Revolutionary: the Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs in a government-sponsored Israeli film festival this week.

“We stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine, and support their call for cultural and academic boycott of Israel,” they say in a statement sent to The Electronic Intifada, co-signed with ten other individuals involved with the award-winning documentary that focuses on the life and work of the 98-year-old Boggs.

“As people featured in the film … we were shocked to find the film slated to be screened at the DocAviv festival in Israel on May 13th and 15th. This was scheduled without our knowledge,” the statement notes.

The authors of the statement say they asked for the film to be withdrawn but “festival organizers and film producers informed us that this was not possible and they would move forward with the screening, over our objections.”

“This film uplifts the life work and legacy of Grace Lee Boggs. She has explicitly stated her support of the boycott and believes this screening is in direct contradiction to her legacy and ongoing work as a revolutionary.”

Boggs, a daughter of Chinese immigrants who lives in Detroit, has been a radical activist and author “whose seven decades of political involvement encompass the major US social movements of the past hundred years,” including Civil Rights and Black Power.

“We will pursue opportunities for this film and the ideas within it to be made available in Palestine in a way that supports the movement and will post our response as soon as possible,” the statement concludes.

Government and corporate support

The sponsors of DocAviv include such Israeli government agencies as the Ministry of Culture and Sports, the foreign ministry, Tel Aviv municipality and the Tel Aviv port authority.

The festival receives funding from the state-controlled Israeli national lottery, which finances numerous buildings in settlements in the occupied West Bank that are deemed illegal under international law.

Another sponsor is Bank Leumi, one of several Israeli banks that have seen major international investors dump their stocks because of the banks’ role in the colonization of occupied Palestinian land.

DocAviv is supported by a number of European embassies and foreign corporations including Fiat and FedEx.

Guidelines

Guidelines published by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) call for the boycott of events and projects “complicit in maintaining the Israeli occupation and denial of basic Palestinian rights.”

“The general principle is that an event or project carried out under the sponsorship/aegis of or in affiliation with an official Israeli body constitutes complicity and therefore is deserving of boycott,” the guidelines say.

Full statement

We stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine, and support their call for cultural and academic boycott of Israel.

As people featured in the film American Revolutionary: the Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, we were shocked to find the film slated to be screened at the DocAviv festival in Israel on May 13th and 15th. This was scheduled without our knowledge.

We immediately took action to have the film withdrawn from the festival. The festival organizers and film producers informed us that this was not possible and they would move forward with the screening, over our objections.   This film uplifts the life work and legacy of Grace Lee Boggs. She has explicitly stated her support of the boycott and believes this screening is in direct contradiction to her legacy and ongoing work as a revolutionary.

We will pursue opportunities for this film and the ideas within it to be made available in Palestine in a way that supports the movement and will post our response as soon as possible.

  • Grace Lee Boggs

and

  • William Ayers
  • Richard Feldman
  • Danny Glover
  • Shea Howell
  • Invincible
  • Angela Jones
  • Scott Kurashige
  • Jenny Lee
  • Julia Putnam
  • Ronald Scott
  • Stephen Ward

Comments

Director/Producer of this documentary is Grace Lee (there are more producers). I wondered if there is any relationship between her and Grace Lee Boggs.

It is: their names are the same! The director has made the film "The Grace Lee Project" (2005), in which she interviewed various people named "Grace Lee". One of the interviewees is Grace Lee Boggs. From this contact this documentary has emerged. www.gracelee.net

(continued)

Caroline Libresco (producer): is involved with the Sundance Film Festival and the SF Jewish Film Festival. [3] Sundance is international, and SFJFF had its BDS issues: 'Rachel' (2009), Bay Area Women in Black declined an invitation (2013). How could Libresco *not* have known that this screening is a BDS issue?

Austin Wilkin (producer): active mostly within US.[3] No direct contact with BDS issues seen. On the other hand, how likely is it that a producer with this resume can be unaware of BDS?

Nancy Willen (Acme PR), is the contact for the movie. Willen must have warned the producers for BDS fallout when screening in Tel Aviv. Why did she not?

So the three producers and PR agent did not see by themselves what their documentary, protagonist, and participants are about. They did not connect it to BDS they professionally must know about. My question to them is: why did you knowingly trespass BDS guidelines? Or: what color is the elephant that sits on the table between you all?

[1] http://americanrevolutionaryfi...
[2] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt23...
[3] http://americanrevolutionaryfi...

Normally, when an official representative of a film signs on to a festival, the agreement to screen the film states that the it cannot then be withdrawn.
Another problem is, when your producer agrees that the film can be shown and you disagree, you have no rights. The only solution is, the producer takes your wishes into account. Obviously this is something every filmmaker must work out beforehand to avoid such unpleasant situations!

1. But it can be done. For example, Ken Loach: "Looking for Eric" (Melbourne IFF, 2009).
2. The "filmmaker" here is Grace Lee: director/producer. So the producer only needed to ask herself to know what the filmmaker wanted. How could the producer *not* know?
3. The documentary is whispering and screaming 'social justice' all over. Twelve(!) participants opposed. Did the filmmaker even cut out GL Boggs' remarks re Palestine? How could she *not* know?
4. The producers stated ignorance and neglect about any BDS issues. Instead, they could have said: "We're sorry, we did not pay attention before signing", or "We'll make a statement supporting the Palestinian struggle, which has so much in common with the documentary", or "We have been mislead", or "We choose to do a: f*** you, Palestinians". Whatever is honest; their ignorance and neglect is not.
5. All in all, it is an attitude thing, not a legal thing.

Ken Loach is one of the very few. He has worked closely with his producer since years and is very clear about his position. He may even co-produce his own films.
There is no point in being unrealistic about it. For others it means: educating themselves and taking a stand. That is something, again, that makes Ken Loach very special on many issues.

(minor glitch: this post should proceed part 2)

The documentary's website has published the letter, with this introduction: "Note from the producers: […] Until about three days ago, we were unaware that playing in the festival would be an issue for the participants of the film." 12 May 2014.[1] So only 'about' May 9, 2014 they learned the participants' opinion. The producers are: Grace Lee, Caroline Libresco, Austin Wilkin.[2]

<b>Grace Lee</b> (director/producer): "I first met Grace Lee Boggs in 2000", "[While filming 'The Grace Lee Project'] Grace [Boggs] would constantly use our interview sessions to turn the questions back on me. What do you think about that? How do you feel about what's happening in Korea?".[3]
This begs the question that the filmmaker did not grasp *by herself* that the Tel Aviv screening was controversial. From its topic, 12 participants, and title person: does the maker understand her own documentary?

Also, the participants' letter states: "[GL Boggs] has explicitly stated her support of the boycott". So when the producers write in thier introduction [1]: "we were unaware" that is not true.

(continued, part 2)

There are very able, smart and friendly festival directors and programmers in Israel who choose not to understand the boycott because they do not wish to question their employment. They say, "we do not believe in cultural boycotts" and play the importance of the 'cultural exchange of ideas and discussions' card. But if one says, that's gone on for decades and things just get worse for Palestinians, they are stumped.
I reckon that the majority of film-makers, many of them very interesting, are unaware of the boycott or misunderstand it, uninformed about the extent of Palestinian oppression. Some have friends in Israel, whom they would not wish to 'offend' - which reveals that their friends are protective of Israel and its policies. That seems to be the reality. The exceptions are people like Ken Loach in Britain.

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