The intense reaction to the Israel-Hamas war has spilled over into the International Documentary Film Festival, which has now seen several directors pull their films from the lineup after the IDFA released a statement condemning the slogan “From the river to the sea.”
IDFA told TheWrap that “around 10” directors have pulled their films from the lineup, while the Palestinian Film Institute has also pulled out of activities at the IDFA film market.
Artistic director Orwa Nyrabia told THR he harbored no ill will towards those who chose to pull their movies.
“We respect the choices and the decisions of all filmmakers, whether that is to speak their minds on stage or online or to withdraw their films, all forms of peaceful protest, including criticism of our work, we honor and respect,” Nyrabia said in a statement to the outlet.
Protestors gathered outside the festival last week, where a banner read, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free.” Nyrabia was slammed for seemingly applauding the protestors, but later clarified that he was applauding a different banner that read, “Silence is Violence” and didn’t see the one carrying the other slogan until after the protest.
Many Jews view the slogan “From the river to the sea” as a call to wipe out the state of Israel, and a number of Israeli filmmakers decried Nyrabia’s actions in an open letter. The IDFA then condemned the slogan in a statement released on Friday.
“Our mission and our intentions are the opposite of hurting anybody or making them feel unsafe. That slogan does not represent us, and we do not endorse it in any way. We are truly sorry that it was hurtful to many,” the statement read. “It was a difficult journey towards the opening night. Like every other cultural institution, IDFA is trying to be respectful and useful and that is not easy within the current political climate.”
The IDFA released a new statement on Sunday, further clarifying their stance on the slogan.
“We understand that the slogan that is at the heart of the on-going discussion is used by various parties in different ways and is perceived by various people in various manners. We are not ignoring, undermining nor criminalizing any of these positions and we fully respect and acknowledge the pain that is going around and the extreme urgency of these discussions while war is still on, and innocent civilians are still dying.”
Iranian filmmaker Maryam Tafakory is one of the directors who pulled their films from the festival after the IDFA’s statement, and the “Mast-del” filmmaker took to Instagram to explain her decision.
“I have withdrawn my film from IDFA and canceled all screenings of Mast-del that were scheduled to start tomorrow. This was to be my first film at the festival and meant a lot to me. I am heartbroken, betrayed, and outraged by the damaging slander of the slogan ‘From the River to the Sea,’” she said.
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