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French theaters protest Israel

French theaters protest Israel

In the wake of the Israeli raid on a Turkish ship at the beginning of this month, various forms of criticism have made their way into the media industry. For film audiences in France, there’s a new protest brewing, according to the New York Times. A French cinema chain called Utopia, has decided to cancel all screenings of the Israeli comedy Five Hours to Paris (which screened at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival). It will replace the critically-acclaimed film with a French documentary about an American protester who was killed during a 2003 demonstration, by Israeli construction workers. The Utopia decision has been met with diverse reactions, while some consider it shrewd but others consider it unnecessary, and at worst, damaging to Israeli films’ ability to shine a light on other aspects of culture. From the report:

For Anne-Marie Faucon, the co-founder of Utopia, a chain of art cinemas in five cities, the ban was a gesture of disapproval for Israel’s use of violence and the blockade of Gaza. “It was a protest of our whole company,” she said in an interview. “We show many Israeli films, we organize a lot of debates on what happens in the world, but this time we reacted very strongly and in a very emotional way.”

The ban was widely criticized by the French press, including the Catholic daily newspaper La Croix, which reminded readers that the Israeli cinema, “during these last years, offers the international public films of great quality, without compromise, and very critical” of Israeli policy and society, while the government of Israel continues to provide financing.

Le Monde called the boycott censorship and part of a dangerous trend, as various French cultural festivals consider banning Israeli performers and Western performers choose to boycott Israel. “The flotilla assault is hard to defend, but the boycott is an unacceptable answer,” the paper editorialized. “It is counterproductive. It helps to weaken Israeli voices and eyes who are the most uncompromising about their government. If there is one country in which artists explore with talent and lucidity their state, their society, their leaders and their politics, it is Israel.”

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