16 | 11 | 2021
MEDIA STATEMENT: RESPONSE TO THE SCREENING OF AN ISRAELI FILM
Further to our statement issued on 9 November 2021, the Board of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival (MQFF) convened a meeting to discuss the requests made to the festival by supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (“BDS”) movement.
The Board engaged has considered the requests of the BDS supporters, namely that the Israeli film “The Swimmer” be removed from the MQFF program and that the Melbourne Queer Film Festival adopt a BDS policy of Israeli content.
Removal of the film The Swimmer
The Melbourne Queer Film Festival strives to curate queer content and feature stories that represent the diversity of LGBTIQ+ communities, as well as balance differing views within these communities.
MQFF acknowledges that it has heard passionately from BDS supporters and from others in the community requesting for the film to be removed. The festival has also received feedback from community members and organisations asking for the film to be kept in the program. The MQFF Board considered that even with this small snapshot of community feedback that views within LGBTIQ+ communities are mixed and both keeping or removing the film is likely to go against the views of some within our communities. It also considered that there are other parts of the community who have not had an opportunity to be consulted on this issue.
The Board considered that the BDS supporters’ complaint regarding this film was based on its country of origin, and that the film is propaganda of the State of Israel which pinkwashes the treatment of LGBTIQ+ Palestinians. The MQFF Board considered that the content of this film does not focus on the Israel/Palestine conflict but is a personal narrative that focuses on homophobia within elite sport which is based on the director’s own experiences as an athlete. The Board considered that the film is funded by the Israel Film Fund, however noted that a majority of films within the festival receive government funding from relevant institutions in their country of origin.
On review of this information the MQFF Board came to the decision that it cannot justify the request to remove the film from the festival and has decided to continue with its screening of The Swimmer.
Adopting a boycott policy
The MQFF Board considered the request to adopt the BDS policy for Israeli content as requested by the BDS supporters.
The Board is concerned about claims from BDS supporters that Palestinian LGBTIQ+ communities feel unsafe at MQFF, however it does not believe that a blanket ban on Israeli content supports MQFF’s mission – to change lives through the experience of shared stories.
The Board considered, however, that art is often a catalyst for the discussion and debate of issues that are important to our communities, and as an arts organisation MQFF often provides a platform for this discussion. MQFF is proud that our program for MQFF31 presents a range of issues faced by our communities and a range of multicultural voices – all important stories that need to be seen by our communities.
MQFF aims to remain apolitical and provide a platform for discussion, however the BDS supporters have highlighted that we can often contribute unduly to these political discussions through the selection of content, as well as how our communities are engaged with this content.
The MQFF Board has considered that it needs a framework to allow it to fairly assess and balance viewpoints from the multitude of voices in our community on issues such as this – and continue to deliver on our core mission. It agreed that the organisation will implement this framework as an extension of our curatorial guide and will consult broadly with the community to ensure that all parts of the LGBTIQ+ communities are able to have their say.
Although the Board recognises that these decisions are not the outcomes requested by those supporters of the BDS movement, it thanks them for sharing their views. MQFF looks forward to continuing to engage on key issues that are important to our communities so it can continue to showcase content that represents the diversity of LGBTIQ+ lived experience.