Right-wing politicians from the culture minister down are getting screenings canceled. The fear is that filmmakers will start censoring themselves.
When Likud’s Miri Regev became culture minister this spring, she made clear she wouldn’t flinch at censoring films and plays.
“If the Culture Ministry pays for such plays they’ll have to be balanced — not too right or left. If it’s necessary to censor, I’ll censor,” said Regev, who made a few more declarations that upset people in the arts.
But it seems no one dreamed how quickly these declarations would become reality. After a slew of canceled screenings across the country, filmmakers called a conference to discuss the new order.
Within weeks, Regev froze the Al-Midan Theater’s budget. Artists denounced Regev, who returned fire. The culture war grabbed headlines. Regev then threatened to withdraw support from the Jerusalem Film Festival if it screened the documentary “Beyond the Fear” about Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin.
Artists protested, the press raged, but both sides eventually grew tired. Many believed it was better to lie low and let things calm down. Some said the compromise under which “Beyond the Fear” was screened outside the festival but took part in the documentary competition was a good solution. The press moved on.
A pirate screening of the documentary 'Beyond the Fear' on Yitzhak Rabin's assassin, July 2015. Emil Salman
But since then many screenings have been quietly canceled. Elected officials and political activists, inspired by events in Jerusalem, discovered the possibility of censorship and canceled one show after another.
It started with a right-wing text assault on the phone of Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi, who quickly canceled “Shivering in Gaza,” a film about treating trauma victims from last summer’s war. Be’er Sheva Mayor Ruvik Danilovich caved to similar pressure and prevented “Shivering” from showing at a local coexistence center.
It happened again in Haifa, where the Haifa Cinematheque and the Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art refused to screen films about the Palestinians' suffering in 1948. Officials from the group Zochrot, which organized the screening, say city officials were behind this refusal, but the municipality declined to comment.
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