CORRECTED: Artists protest Tel Aviv focus at Toronto film fest

Thu Sep 3, 2009 5:51pm EDT
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(Corrects paragraph 10 to show CUPE launched boycott of Israeli academic institutions, not academics)

By Cameron French

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Toronto International Film Festival is under attack for its decision to present a series of films spotlighting the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, which a group of high-profile artists and celebrities say constitutes complicity in "the Israeli propaganda machine".

At issue is the festival's new City to City program, which will present 10 films focused on Tel Aviv.

The 34th edition of the festival will begin next Thursday.

Canadian filmmaker John Greyson last week pulled his documentary "Covered" from the festival in protest, and a statement published online on Thursday and signed by more than 50 artists, academics, and filmmakers likened the program to a celebration of apartheid-era South Africa.

"This program ignores the suffering of thousands of former residents and descendants of the (Tel Aviv) area who currently live in refugee camps in the Occupied Territories or who have been dispersed to other countries," say the signatories, which include actors Jane Fonda and Danny Glover, author Naomi Klein, and filmmaker Ken Loach.

They accuse the festival of taking direction from the "Brand Israel" campaign, which seeks to improve the country's image and has focused on Toronto as a test city.

"We do not protest the individual Israeli filmmakers included in City to City, nor do we in any way suggest that Israeli films should be unwelcome at TIFF," they say.   Continued...

<p>Ultra-Orthodox Jews walk on the beach in Tel Aviv January 14, 2009. REUTERS/Sharon Perry</p>