Author/activist Naomi Klein on Q critiquing the Toronto Internation Film Festival’s spotlight on Tel Aviv. Filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici takes up the other side.
A political and artistic debate is being waged at this year’s Toronto Film Festival. An open letter of protest from the Toronto Declaration protests TIFF’s City-to-City Spotlight, which is focussing on the work of Israeli filmmakers from Tel Aviv. The signatories, which include Q guest Naomi Klein, actor Harry Belafonte, Jane Fonda and writer Rawi Hage, argue TIFF is complicit in Israel’s Rebranding campaign that aims to shift emphasis away from the occupation, especially in a year where the conflict in Gaza resulted in over 1,000 deaths of Palestinians. TIFF denies any ideological pressure was applied. On the other side of the debate, filmmakers like Q guest Simcha Jacobovici, David Cronenberg, Ivan Reitman, and Robert Lantos argue that judging films by their country of origin rather than the quality of the artistic product, is a kind of censorship.
Noami explains that the letter is not about politics and censorship but about trying to separate the propaganda from the films:
“We’re not asking for anything—that’s what’s so amazing. The reports today, in response to the statements from Norman Jewison and David Cronenberg, are kind of amazing to me because they’re all denouncing censorship. I’m against censorship. I’m not trying to censor anything. None of the thousand people who signed this letter are trying to censor anything. Even on CBC, sorry to say, they are reporting that we have a problem with the ten films. We have no problem with these ten films. I have seen some of the films—I think they are terrific and I think they are so good they deserve to be part of the regular festival programming and not politicized as part of this celebration of the State of Israel, of the city of Tel Aviv, because that’s not about art, that’s about politics.