Miri Regev’s attempt to impose censorship on Israeli cinema

In what is a clear statement from the Israeli film community, I salute and respect the Israeli Academy’s decision to not allow government officials to speak at this years Ophir Awards. If this is perceived by the Cultural Minister as a slap in the face to her, then she is correct.

Her attack on the film “Foxtrot” directed by Samuel Maoz, which I have written about over the last few days, is an attempt by a government official to censor cinema in what is supposed to be a democratic society. In a country where the ability of filmmakers to find financial support for production is largely dependent on Government funding, the Minister’s decision that she wants to examine whether or not films in Israel should receive funding if they are not consistent with her own political agenda and viewpoint is nothing short of censorship and an attempt to curtail free speech.

Her response below in the last few hours could not make her agenda clearer.

Culture Minister Miri Regev says the Israeli film academy is being “cowardly” in deciding to not invite her to this year’s Ophir Awards ceremony. She says it is a “cowardly and undemocratic decision by a body that disregards the positions of the public and its representatives. “The only purpose of the decision was to prevent the public from hearing my just position — that films that spread evil and lying defamation of IDF soldiers should’t be funded by the state budget,” she says.

Sadly, she has taken a position that suggests she is not the Minister of Culture for all Israeli’s but only for those that reflect her point of view. The dress she chose to wear at the Cannes Film Festival in May of this year shown below was a statement which created tremendous controversy in the media. At last year’s awards in Israel she stormed out of the ceremony when she did not like a song that was played that was written by a Palestinian.

Let’s not forget that this is the same woman who as a member of the Likud party had to issue an apology a couple of years ago after being criticized for calling African migrants “a cancer” in Israeli society.

What I can say about the Minister’s conduct is that her comments have only heightened the desire of film lovers all over the world to now go and see Foxtrot. She has also created solidarity amongst the film community in Israel who will continue to support the efforts of the Israeli Film Fund who wants nothing more than to see the continued growth of a wonderful film community which wants to have the ability to share with the world cultural diversity in a country that throughout history has been diverse.

Miri Regev thinks that films fictional films like “Foxtrot” encourage and support the position of organisations like BDF. Nothing could be further from the truth. Her ongoing efforts to shut down cinemas that show Arab themed movies around the country that do not support her political agenda and limit the ability of people to tell diverse stories is doing more to fuel the position of BDF rather than curtail it.

What is perhaps most disturbing is that the Minister has made public comments about the film which make it clear that she has not even taken two hours to watch it before taking such an aggressive position. As someone who is in a position of authority, to make such comments without verifying the accuracy of the facts is irresponsible for someone in this position or for anyone for that matter!

Dear Miri. Do not think that for one minute your position is just creating controversy amongst the film community in Israel. If you continue down this path, wait till you see what filmmakers and film lovers from the rest of the world will do to support their colleagues!

About the Author
Craig Emanuel is a partner in the US based law firm of Loeb & Loeb where he is head of entertainment department on a global basis. His clients include writers, directors, actors and producers working in film and television.