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Palestinian defends role in Jerusalem film fair

The Daily Star

BEIRUT: Palestinian filmmaker Sameh Zoabi has issued a response to calls from the American Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and Artists Against Apartheid, International Alliance, which last week criticized his decision to screen his first feature, “Man Without a Cell Phone,” in this year’s Jerusalem Film Festival.

“As you have pledged support for the Cultural Boycott of Israel, we were surprised to learn of the inclusion of your film ‘Man Without a Cell Phone’ in the Jerusalem Film Festival of 2011,” said the statement released late Tuesday.

“Further,” the statement continued, “we are disappointed to learn of the Doha Film Institute participating in normalization with Israel through an Israeli-Qatari coproduction with an Israeli production company, with its co-production represented as an Israeli film in the Jerusalem Film Festival in the Israeli Competition.”

Zoabi’s 2010 film had its world premier at 2010’s Doha-Tribeca Film Festival. An Israel / France / Belgium / Palestine / Qatar co-production, the film was the first to issue from cooperation between an Arab funding agency and an Israel production company.

The film, the debut feature Zoabi (a ’48 Palestinian and Israeli citizen), is a light-hearted comic drama about the marginalized and subdivided state of Palestinian families in a village “that the Israelis renamed to help Arab Israelis forget their Palestinian roots.”

In his reply, Zoabi wrote that, as “a Palestinian filmmaker who retains only Israeli citizenship,” he refused to apologize for participating in JFF, for seeking production funds from the Israeli Film Fund and the theatrical release of his film inside Israel.

“The [Israeli] boycott at its core,” he wrote, “has strong implications for success when it is linked to the international community however, all Palestinians living in Israel function within the larger civil society – in the parliament, universities, the workplace, schools, transportation systems, supermarkets, the products we consume, media, etc.

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