Award-Winning South African Filmmaker Cancels Participation in Israeli LGBT Film Festival

27 May
5:14 PM
South African filmmaker John Trengove on withdrawing from the Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival

Award-winning South African filmmaker John Trengove canceled his participation in the upcoming Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival (TL‚ÄčV‚ÄčFest). His film,¬†The Wound, is scheduled to be the festival‚Äôs opening night film on¬†June 1.

In his letter (copied below) to festival organizers informing them that he was canceling his participation, Trengove said:

While I appreciate that the organizers ‚Äčof TLVFest ‚Äčmay be well intentioned and progressive, it is impossible to look past the fact that the festival (and my participation in it) could serve as a diversion from the human rights violations being committed by the state of Israel.‚ÄĚ

He added,

‚ÄúWith the pain of the Apartheid struggle still fresh in our collective consciousness, the issue is, as you can imagine, a very sensitive one for many South Africans. …knowing what I know now, I feel it is imperative that I withdraw myself from attending.

Trengove’s letter acknowledged that he is unable to withdraw his film from being screened in Israel, because it has already been sold for screening and distribution. He said:

‚ÄčI ‚Ķ accept that t‚Äčhis is a situation that is out of my hands‚Äč,‚Äč though my wish is that the film not be shown in Israel while current conditions persist.

Queer Palestinian activists and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) warmly welcomed Trengove’s decision to respect the Palestinian picket-line and cancel his participation in the film festival.

Hind Awwad from PACBI said,

Palestinian civil society warmly thanks John Trengove for his principled solidarity and decision to respect our picket line by cancelling his participation in TLVFest. We hope international artists follow his lead and cancel their participation, denying the Israeli government an opportunity to use their name to cover-up and pink wash its crimes.

Queer Palestinian activists and allies have¬†called on international filmmakers¬†to cancel their participation in the Israeli government-sponsored TLVFest. Their call is part of a wider campaign urging international LGBTQI filmmakers, artists and businesses to¬†Boycott Tel Aviv Pride, which Palestinian queer activists note is a pink washing exercise to obscure the fact that ‚Äúunderneath the rainbow, Israel is hiding 69 years of¬†occupation, colonialism and apartheid.‚ÄĚ

Letter from John Trengove to TLVFest Director Yair Hochner:

Dear Yair,

It is with sincere regret that I have to inform you that I will not be attending TL‚ÄčV‚Äčfest next week. In the last few days I have been approached by activist organizations as well as members of the South African film community‚Äč, ‚Äčurg‚Äčing‚Äč me to respect the cultural boycott against Israel, and specifically TLVfest‚Äč.‚Äč With the pain of the Apartheid struggle still fresh in our collective consciousness, the issue is, as you can imagine, a very sensitive one for many South Africans‚Äč.‚Äč

The issue of pink washing has also been underscored to me. While I appreciate that the organizers ‚Äčof TLVfest ‚Äčmay be well intentioned and progressive, it is impossible to look past the fact that the festival (and my participation in it) could serve as a diversion from the human rights violations being committed by the state of Israel.

I understand that it is very late for me to make such a decision, and for this I am sincerely sorry. It is out of naivety, and a desire for my film and the human issues it promotes to be seen as far and wide as possible, that I accepted your invitation several weeks ago. Unfortunately, knowing what I now know, I feel it is imperative that I withdraw myself from attending.

I also understand that the film has already been sold, not just for screening but also for Israeli distribution. ‚ÄčI therefore accept that t‚Äčhis is a situation that is out of my hands‚Äč,‚Äč though my wish is that the film not be shown in Israel while current conditions persist.

I hope that you will accept my decision in the spirit that it is intended, which is not a personal attack on you or your team, but motivated by realisation of what deeply personal and political convictions require of me.

Sincerely,

John Trengove

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) was initiated in 2004 to contribute to the struggle for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality. PACBI advocates for the boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions, given their deep and persistent complicity in Israel’s denial of Palestinian rights as stipulated in international law. Visit PACBI at https://bdsmovement.net/pacbi and follow on Twitter @PACBI

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