RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — A Palestinian film festival on Sunday canceled the screening of a movie by a Lebanese-French director following pressure by activists who opposed his previous work in Israel.
“The Insult,” the latest movie by director Ziad Doueiri, was set to close the Palestinian Days of Cinema festival on Monday and was competing for the festival’s top award.
But after a charged campaign by activists on social media, the city of Ramallah, which was hosting the screening, told the festival to scrap the showing, according to Khulood Badawi, a spokeswoman for the festival, which agreed to the cancellation. It was not clear if the film was still eligible for an award.
Doueiri’s previous film, “The Attack,” about a Palestinian surgeon living in Tel Aviv who discovers that his wife carried out a deadly suicide attack, was filmed in Israel and featured several Israeli actors. That film was banned in Lebanon and most Arab countries. Last month, Lebanese authorities briefly detained the Paris-based Doueiri because of his visits to Israel.
“The director showed no remorse, and insisted on his stand, and we think screening any of his work at a Palestinian cinema festival would be a big mistake” said Abed Hamayel, an activist who campaigned against the film’s screening.
A segment of Palestinians has long called for Arab political, economic and cultural leaders to boycott Israel as a way to prevent normalizing ties with the Jewish state. An international movement of activists also calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against people or companies doing business with Israel.
Doueiri could not be reached for comment, but Kamel Elbasha, a Palestinian actor who stars in the film, criticized the decision.
“Ziad was punished for that movie which was banned in all Arab countries,” he said, adding that the activists were “mixing things up, lying and distorting facts,” and questioning their motives. Elbasha won the best actor award for his role in the film at the Venice Film Festival in September.
Film Lab Palestine, the group behind the Palestinian festival, noted that “The Insult,” was being screened in Lebanon and in other festivals in the Middle East. The film, which focuses on a tense exchange between a Lebanese Christian and a Palestinian refugee, explores the fraught place of Palestinians in Lebanese society.
“‘The Insult’ was selected for this year’s edition of the festival since it addresses an important issue for the Palestinian people,” said a statement from the group. It also said the film was selected because it stars Elbasha, who hails from east Jerusalem.