In an effort to promote national and international film culture, the Days of Cinema film festival took place in Ramallah recently from October 17-23. But, the fourth edition of the festival was not without controversy. Ramallah authorities asked festival organizers to cancel the screening of the courtroom drama, “The Insult,” following security threats against the film’s star, Palestinian Kamel El Basha, and the film festival itself.
Earlier in September, El Basha won the best actor award at the Venice Film Festival for his role in “The Insult”, a Lebanese film directed by Ziad Doueiri, and was the first Arab actor to ever win the award.
El Basha, who lives in Jerusalem, was supposed to be recognized at the Ramallah film festival for the Venice award after the screening of “The Insult,” but municipality officials said that they could not guarantee security.
The reason was Doueiri’s previous film, “The Attack,” based on the eponymous novel by the French-Algerian author Mohammed Moulessehoul, which tells the story of an Arab-Israeli surgeon who discovers his wife carried out a suicide bombing. “The Attack” drew the ire of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which claimed that Doueiri was normalizing relations with Israel for having the movie filmed in the Jewish state.
Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS movement and a doctoral candidate at Tel Aviv University, told CNN that Zoueiri had yet to apologize for filming “The Attack” in Israel. “This film was made by a filmmaker who has crossed our nonviolent picket line,” Barghouti told CNN.
The BDS movement also utilized social media to build pressure on the festival, using an Arabic slogan for #itwillnotbescreened on social media in reference to “The Insult”.
But Hanna Atallah, the director of Days of Cinema, which is organized by Filmlab: Palestine, maintained to CNN that “The Insult” was not made in Israel and did not break BDS rules.
“We are very proud that we don’t have censorship of films in Palestine,” Atallah told CNN. “Every Palestinian citizen [should have] the right to watch a product and decide whether it is good or not.”
El Basha came out even more strongly, stating that he was very angry with the BDS movement. “There is a bunch of people, a small group of people that have succeeded in forcing their opinion on the municipality of Ramallah … to censor our movies and our job,” he told CNN. “It is a catastrophe for our struggle and for our life.”