“Degrade,” one of the closing night films of the Other Israel Film Festival, has pulled out of the festival, which focuses on Israel’s minority populations. Presented by the JCC Manhattan as a platform for conversation and dialogue, the Other Israel Film Festival is a non-political festival which uses film to foster social awareness and cultural understanding.
The film, by the brothers Tarzan and Arab Abu Nasser, exposes the diversity of life in Gaza through people at a hair salon. It was scheduled to have its New York premiere at the festival after a successful screening at both the Cannes and Toronto film festivals.
The film’s European sales agent, Elle Driver, who contracted the rights for the screening with the film festival, informed the Other Israel Film Festival that the producers are removing the film from all Jewish-related festivals as a result of the impact of the Israeli-Arab conflict reaching new heights.
“In these polarizing times, it is more important than ever to hear each other’s voices and create a culture of dialogue,” Isaac Zablocki, Executive Director of the festival, said. “The silencing and boycotting of arts and education only hurts those aiming to create positive change and hear the other side.”
Zablocki told Indiewire that he believes the filmmakers “wanted to participate in the festival, but they are feeling that the pressure is too strong at this point.” He said that there was a possibility that “the filmmakers fear for their lives and the lives of their families” if they participate. Also, there’s a possibility that if they participated, they might not be able to receive financing from various Arab Film Funds.
Ironically, the mission of the festival is to promote dialogue. “The film was going to show the New York Jewish community a side of Gaza we don’t get to see, this is exactly what we’re about, showing people the situation behind the news. It’s a shame that the community will be deprived of that and that the community won’t get to have to hear the filmmakers, who were supposed to attend,” said Zablocki.
“Education is the place to listen and to hear and to learn,” he added. “Film is a form of education. These are the places where we create change and make the world a better place.”
The closing night of the Other Israel Film Festival will still feature the previously scheduled, award-winning “Women in Sink” by Iris Zaki, a documentary which also follows women in an Arab-Israeli-owned hair salon who discuss their views on politics, history and love.
For the full lineup of Other Israel films and events, check out otherisrael.org. The 9th Other Israel Film Festival opens this Thursday, November 5 at JCC Manhattan and runs till November 12.