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51 Filmmakers Protest Hot Docs Collaboration with Israel

April 28, 2011

Today 51 Canadian filmmakers issued a statement of protest to Hot Docs documentary film festival stating “as members of the film and arts community, we are deeply disappointed to learn that Hot Docs has decided to partner with the Israeli organization CoPro Documentary Marketing Foundation. Intentionally or not, this decision puts Hot Docs in direct support of the Israeli state and its ongoing violations of international law.” The list of signatories includes longtime Hot Docs favourites such as Brenda Longfellow and Ali Kazimi, as well as past jurors and supporters.

The statement is specifically protesting the organization of a Canadian Delegation to CoPro 13. Organized by the CoPro Documentary Marketing Foundation (CoPro), it is a forum for international documentary co-productions to be held in Tel Aviv from 23 – 30 of May, 2011. The funders of CoPro include the Israel Film Council, an official part of the Israeli Ministry of Science, Culture and Sports, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Golan Heights Winery, which operates illegally in the occupied Syrian Golan heights. Such collaboration between Hot Docs and CoPro is designed to highlight and promote the Israeli documentary filmmaking industry and cultural production in a way that diverts attention from Israel’s ongoing violations of international law and human rights abuses against the Palestinian people.

Signatories to the statement are joining Palestinian community organizations in Canada, and various community organizations in requesting that Hot Docs find alternative ways of engaging both Palestinian and Israeli progressive forces, while bypassing the Israeli state, in a principled stand of cultural solidarity.


Cathy Gulkin: 416-697-0768
b.h. Yael: 647-389-7247

To the co-chairs of the board of directors of Hot Docs:

Toronto, 23 April, 2011

Dear Ms. Mirsky and Mr. McMahon:

As members of the film and arts community, we are deeply disappointed to learn that Hot Docs has decided to partner with the Israeli organization “CoPro Documentary Marketing Foundation”. Intentionally or not, this decision puts Hot Docs in direct support of the Israeli state and its ongoing violations of international law. By partnering with CoPro, Hot Docs is participating in “Brand Israel”, a state-funded campaign which deliberately pursues partners by creating venues that shift the focus from six decades of Israel’s deadly violations of international law to Israel’s achievements in medicine, science and culture.

As artists and filmmakers who actively support the call from Palestinian civil society for a non- violent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel's violations, we are disheartened and disturbed to see Hot Docs lending its endorsement to CoPro. In 2009, in the wake of Israel’s war on Gaza which left over 1400 Palestinians dead, hundreds of artists from around the world signed the Toronto Declaration to protest TIFF’s complicity in rebranding Israel through the “Spotlight on Tel Aviv” program. Must we now add Hot Docs to the list of cultural organizations whose complicity with the Israeli state puts them on the wrong side of history?

Given the general awareness of the cultural boycott of Israel and the rebranding campaign following TIFF in 2009, the current collaboration with Israeli State funded CoPro is particularly objectionable. It suggests, in fact, a more deliberate demonstration of support for Israel’s propaganda campaign than the 2005 Hot Docs Spotlight on Israel program which was also sponsored, directly in that case, by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This indicates a trend that makes a mockery of Hot Docs stated policy that it “cannot endorse or oppose any one political position or cause” and that “Hot Docs does not support sides – it supports documentary filmmakers”. Ultimately, this trend of promoting Israel puts progressive filmmakers and artists who support Hot Docs in an increasingly compromised position.

How can Hot Docs live up to its slogan “Outspoken. Outstanding” if it continues to collaborate with a government that endorses and institutes apartheid policies? Will Hot Docs be outspoken about its complicity with the Israeli state when artists around the world start questioning its actions? Answering the BDS call would be an outstanding decision. Contrary to popular misconception, this would not require sanctioning or excluding individual Israeli artists from the program. Rather, respecting the cultural boycott of Israel demands that organizations like Hot Docs refuse partnerships with institutions such as CoPro that are supported by the Israeli state.

It would mean standing in solidarity with Palestinian artists, virtually all of whom have signed the BDS call. It means saying No! To CoPro.

As artists committed to the freedom of Palestinians and to the preservation of Hot Docs, we are calling on Hot Docs, and their documentary filmmaker partners, to refuse collaboration with institutions, like CoPro, which are supported by the Israeli state. We are not calling for a boycott of Hot Docs. We are encouraging Hot Docs to find alternative ways of engaging both Palestinian and Israeli progressive forces, while bypassing the Israeli state, in a principled stand of cultural solidarity.

Endorsed by:
• Alberto Arce, Filmmaker
• David Cecchetto, Assistant Professor, OCAD University
• Janis Cole, Documentary filmmaker, film writer, media artist, Professor OCAD University
• Martin Duckworth, Filmmaker (Hot Docs:Winner of Best Film at 1996 Brush with Life, founding member of Montreal chapter of DOC's precursor, CIFC)
• Sylvia Finzi, Sculptor and video artist, London/Berlin
• Richard Fung, Video artist, Associate Professor, OCAD University (Hot Docs: 2001, Sea in the Blood)
• Rebecca Garrett, Filmmaker
• Dina Georgis, Assistant Professor Women and Gender Studies Institute University of Toronto
• Amy Gottlieb, Video artist
• John Greyson, Filmmaker/video artist, Associate Professor, York University (Hot Docs: Fig Trees, Canadian Premiere, 09; International Jury, 09)
• Cathy Gulkin, Documentary film editor, DOC member
• Malcolm Guy, Director/Producer (Hot Docs: former President DOC-Québec; Turbulent Waters 2004 (co-directed with Michelle Smith), A Time of Love and War 2001 (as Producer); Canadian Spectrum Jury member 2001)
• Jens Hanssen, Associate Professor of Middle Eastern History, University of Toronto
• Jamelie Hassan, Visual artist
• Mike Hoolboom, Artist
• Nora Hoppe, Filmmaker, Berlin
• Magnus Isacsson, Filmmaker (Hot Docs: Maxime McDuff & McDo (2003), The Choir Boys, (nominee. 2000), Power, (nominee 1997 ), The Big Upheaval, (nominee, 1996)
• Aminul Islam, Documentary filmmaker
• Ali Kazimi, Filmmaker, associate professor, York University (Hot Docs: Narmada; A Valley Rises, Best Political Film, Best Director, Special Mention for Best Film, 95; Shooting Indians: A Journey with Jeffrey Thomas, Nominee, 98; Continuous Journey, Honourable Mention 04; juror, 96, 99, 04)
• Jason Lafolle, TV Video Producer and Independent Filmmaker
• Paul Lee, Filmmaker/film producer, programmer, Honolulu Palestine Film Festival
• Brenda Longfellow, Associate Professor, York University (Hot Docs: A Balkan Journey (1996), ShadowMaker (1998), Tina in Mexico (2002), Jury member '03, '01, '00, '99, '98, '95)
• Angela Martin, independent cultural producer, Lecturer (retired) Sheffield Hallam University, UK
• Tariq Marzbaan, Filmmaker, Berlin
• Alexis Mitchell, Media artist
• Michelle Mohabeer, Filmmaker, Writer, Teaching Faculty Member (Humanities-Culture & Expression) York University
• Jenny Morgan, Documentary film-maker, London
• Dorit Naaman, Israeli/Canadian videomaker and Associate Professor at Queen's University
• Midi Onodera, Filmmaker
• Goran Hugo Olsson, Director, (Hot Docs: 2011 The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975)
• Maria Belen Ordonez, Assistant Professor, Anthropologist, OCAD University
• Vicky Moufawad-Paul, Filmmaker/curator/programmer
• Margo Pelletier, Filmmaker
• Lila Pine, New Media Artist, Professor, Ryerson University
• Jeanne Pope, Filmmaker (Hot Docs 2011 Dust, A Scultptor's Journey)
• Clive Robertson, Media artist, contemporary art critic. Professor, Art History and Cultural Studies, Queen's University, Kingston
• Annika Rogell, Producer (Hot Docs: 2011 The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975)
• Samah Sabawi, Writer and Playwright
• Jayce Salloum, Filmmaker/video artist
• John Sharkey, Programmer
• Susan Gold Smith, Artist, professor of visual art University of Windsor Ontario
• Robert H. Stiver, Editor and producer
• Larry Towell- Photographer/videographer
• Naomi Binder Wall, Filmmaker
• Tom Waugh, Professor, Concordia University
• Kathy Wazana, Filmmaker
• Paul Wong, Artist & Curator
• b.h. Yael, Filmmaker/video artist, Professor, OCAD University
• Hani Yared, Journalist Al Jazeera Network
• Dan Yon, Filmmaker, anthropologist, associate professor, York University
• Rachel Zolf, Writer, video artist/producer

For more information contact:
Cathy Gulkin
Phone: 416-697-0768

b.h. Yael
Phone: 647-389-7247

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