Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tiff - noun: a slight fit of annoyance, bad mood, or the like.

I've updated my blog with a post on this week's controversy over the Toronto International Film Festival. I have no problem with a filmmaker, in this case, John Greyson, pulling his film from TIFF over its decision to salute Tel Aviv. That's his right. But, when artists organize and hold letter-writing campaigns over a festival's artistic decision, I take it personally. As someone who ran a film festival for eight years, I can tell you these decisions are not made lightly, and I commend TIFF and co-director Cameron Bailey for recognizing Tel Aviv as an important cultural centre.

That's not to dismiss the city's political history. But name me a great city that doesn't have baggage. We might as well boycott the Berlin Film Festival over East Germany's treatment of political prisoners during the cold war. That Israel and the Palestinian issue is contentious ground is a given. But the festival should be a catalyst and forum for debate on the subject. Stifling that debate is an act of cowardice by a gang of thugs who cannot argue rationally and must therefore act irrationally. How else would one describe artists promoting artistic censorship? It boggles my mind; it hurts my heart.

More importantly, to accuse TIFF - a festival which has a history of supporting Palestinian filmmakers and screening films highly critical of Israel - of now acting as a propagandist for the Jewish state is just daft. Or deliberately malicious. Either way, I'm sure the irony of promoting the Palestinian cause by accusing a festival of promoting the Israeli case isn't lost on these people.

My blog post is here.

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