LGBTQ filmmakers boycott Tel Aviv film fest

More than 130 queer filmmakers and film artists from around the globe are pledging to boycott TLVFest, the Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival.

Palestinian and Arab LGBTQ activists have called on artists to not participate in the annual festival scheduled in early June.

“As filmmakers, film artists and production companies committed to LGBTQIA+ liberation, we understand that our liberation is intimately connected to the liberation of all oppressed peoples and communities,” the pledge states.

Critics say that the festival, which is partnered with Israel’s culture ministry, serves Israel’s pinkwashing campaign.

Pinkwashing is the public relations strategy that deploys Israel’s supposed enlightenment toward LGBTQ issues to deflect criticism from its human rights abuses and appeal particularly to Western liberal audiences.

It often involves gross exaggerations of Israel’s progressive policies, accompanied by outright lies about Palestinians.

TLVFest is partnered with Creative Community for Peace, a thinly veiled front group for the far-right Israel lobby organization StandWithUs.

Award-winning filmmakers, including Charlotte Prodger, Alain Guiraudie, Minji Ma and Harjant Gill have signed the boycott pledge.

Upholding rights

Yair Hochner, the founder and artistic director of TLVFest, has said the filmmakers who have signed the pledge “think they are helping the Palestinians. However, they are wrong.”

He added that “Harming our festival and the filmmakers who do participate in it would instead support the silencing of dissident voices in Israel.”

Palestinian rights campaigners have long urged TLVFest to drop its partnership with the Israeli cultural ministry.

In 2018, several LGBTQ filmmakers pulled out of TLVFest.

The year before, TLVFest was hit with a wave of cancellations by filmmakers who heeded the boycott call.

Canadian filmmaker John Greyson, who has signed the pledge, appealed to fellow artists through a short visual piece:

“In the future, I do hope that I’ll be able to screen my films at TLVFest, when they stop pinkwashing and publicly uphold Palestinian rights under international law, as a necessary step towards achieving a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians,” Greyson says.

“Until then, I hope you’ll also sign this pledge.”


Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).