Palestinian directors say no to UAE-Israel “colonial cinema” deal

Director Annemarie Jacir via video link at the BBC Radio Theatre, London

Tamara Nassar reports in The Electronic Intifada:

Palestinian filmmakers are calling for a boycott of Emirati film institutions that work with the Israeli government.

This comes after the Abu Dhabi Film Commission signed a cooperation agreement last month with the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School and the Israel Film Fund, both founded by Israel’s culture ministry.  The deal paves the way for joint training programs, film festivals and creating content to promote “tolerance” and “cultural understanding between the Emirati and Israeli people.”

Mohamed Khalifa al-Mubarak, chair of Abu Dhabi’s department of culture and tourism, welcomed the agreement, saying it will strengthen “cultural ties” between the two industries.  By rebuffing the longstanding Palestinian call for a boycott of Israel, the agreement signed by the Emirati film body is akin to crossing an international picket line.

Almost 100 Palestinian directors, performers, producers and other film industry workers signed a statement rejecting the agreement and urging their colleagues to abide by the Palestinian call.  Signers include internationally acclaimed filmmakers Annemarie Jacir, Hany Abu-Assad, Salim Abu Jabal, Najwa Najjar and Mohammad Bakri.

They write that they “were deeply disappointed and shocked” by the Abu Dhabi Film Commission’s “normalization agreement to work with Israel’s regime of occupation, colonization and apartheid.”  As Palestinian filmmakers, they say they have been “severely affected by this colonialism and military occupation,” which often forces them “to depend in our film productions on mostly foreign funding.”

They call on their counterparts in the UAE and other Arab states to “renounce the partnership with colonialist cinema” and “to refuse any work with any film institution in Abu Dhabi or the Arab world that concludes agreements with the Israeli government.”

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