Palestinian directors, producers and actors boycott Istanbul Film Festival

To esteemed members of the press and the public,

We previously published a letter after learning that the Israeli Foreign Ministry had become one of the sponsors of the Istanbul Film Festival through its official artistic institution, ARTISRAEL. In this letter, we demanded that the festival’s organizer, the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV), abandon this sponsorship agreement and called on directors to boycott the festival if this sponsorship continues.

We know that Israel uses culture and art as a vehicle to legitimize itself. This truth, as well as calls for a boycott of Israel, has been voiced by a large group of artists and intellectuals that include Jewish luminaries and artists such as Roger Waters, Ken Loach, Judith Butler, Elvis Costello, Jean Luc Godard and Eyal Sivan. It is impossible for the İKSV’s directors to be unaware of these calls. They agreed to accept Israel’s sponsorship despite these calls. They agreed to accept Israel’s sponsorship despite two weeks of attacks in which Israeli forces have used live ammunition on peaceful Gazans participating in the “Great March of Return,” killing 30.

But this sponsorship was not restricted to just the film festival; indeed, we are upset to learn that Israel will also sponsor the upcoming İKSV’s upcoming Istanbul Music Festival.

İKSV has not heeded our calls, but Annemarie Jacir’s “Wajib” film has been pulled from the festival lineup, while the film’s crew has cancelled their travel plans. Ossama Bawardi, the film’s producer, has also announced that he will not participate in the festival’s “Meeting on the Bridge” events for the same reason. Later, Palestinian director/producer May Odeh also announced on Facebook that she would not participate in Meetings on the Bridge due to Israel’s sponsorship of the festival. Odeh said she could not believe that the festival would collaborate with a country that has committed war crimes.

“I am canceling my visit to your festival as a result of Israel’s official collaboration with the Istanbul Film Festival, particularly in the wake of the last Black Friday in Gaza, in which the Israeli army opened fire on innocent people,” Mohammad Bakri, the lead character in “Wajib,” said in a letter. “It would have been shameful for me to come. I can only come if the festival reject’s Israel’s sponsorship.”

As we reiterate our call to all artistic institutions, especially İKSV, to avoid any agreements with the Israeli state and any partnership with the occupation, we express our gratitude to the artists who have withdrawn from the festival while noting our expectation that other participants will also show their solidarity with the Palestinians by adopting a similar stance. The Palestinian people and others living under occupation will not forget your solidarity.

BDS Turkey