A Norwegian documentary film festival has rejected an Israeli documentary charting the lives of disabled children, telling the director that it supports the cultural boycott of Israel and will only show films that deal with “discrimination against Palestinians.”
“The Other Dreamers”, an award-winning film by Roy Zafrani which follows a group of severely disabled youngsters as they seek to fulfil their ambitions, has already been screened at festivals in the United States, Spain, Italy, Australia and India, the Times of Israel has reported.
But festival-goers attending next February’s Human Rights, Human Wrongs festival in Oslo will not be able to see it, as the festival is signed up to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.
Ketil Magnussen, the festival’s organiser has written to Zafrani to say: “I’m sorry but we can’t show this film.
“We support the academic and cultural boycott of Israel so unless the films are about the illegal occupation, or deal with the occupation or the blockade of Gaza, or otherwise about the discrimination of Palestinians, we can’t show them.”
It is a decision that Zefrani has deemed “absurd,” saying that he was being punished for his government’s decisions and actions in a way that no other film maker would be.
“Film is meant to bring people together, not drive them apart,” he said. “I see films from all over the world, from Syria to Iran, and learn about the people beyond their leadership. No one would boycott an Iranian director because of what his government does, so if he doesn’t get that sort of reception, neither should I.”
Unlike the festival, which is supported by public funds through organisations including the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights, the union LO, and Norad, Zefrani pointed out that the film did not even receive government funding so can’t be said to have the support of the Israeli government.
“It’s absurd. I’m not a political man. I am not responsible for my government’s actions,” he said. “This is an entirely independent film, with zero funding from Israeli public grants, so the boycott cannot even be justified by saying that it was made with government support.”
Tor Fosse, the director of the Bergen International Film Festival, Norway’s largest agreed with Zefrani, commenting: “Boycotts are not the right way to drive cultural development. This is unfortunate,” The Local has reported.
But Magnussen defended his decision, telling Norway’s Dagen newspaper: “We are taking a stand against the illegal Israeli occupation that has been continuing for a very long time and where the situation for the Palestinians only gets worse.”
Zefrani disagreed. “This boycott is simply because it’s a film that shows a different, nice side of Israel,” he concluded.