Filmmakers say Israeli funding of Doc Edge festival is ‘offensive and unacceptable’

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International filmmakers have joined calls for the international documentary film festival Doc Edge to cut ties with the Israeli embassy, ​​saying its funding amounts to propaganda to whitewash ‘heinous crimes and justify apartheid’ .

Nine filmmakers taking part in the festival, including Gabriel Shipton, brother of Julian Assange, wrote an open letter to festival organizers last week.

The letter criticized the festival’s organizers for accepting embassy funding and said the affiliation with Israel was “offensive and unacceptable” and in “blatant contrast to the spirit of the festival”.

The Israeli embassy declined to comment on the filmmakers’ letter, but responded last month to other criticisms of its festival’s funding, saying it “willingly support [Doc Edge] for many years”.

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Director and producer of The Milford RoadCole Yeoman was the instigator of the letter after finding the Israeli Embassy named as a supporter on the festival’s website in late May.

“I first contacted the festival and expressed my concern, but they dismissed it and downplayed it.”

Yeoman said he sent the letter directly to festival organizers but has yet to receive an acknowledgment.

The Doc Edge International Documentary Film Festival takes place in Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington and online from June 1 to July 10.  (File photo).

Krists Luhaers/Unsplash

The Doc Edge International Documentary Film Festival takes place in Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington and online from June 1 to July 10. (File photo).

Yeoman said he supports the festival’s kaupapa and is aware that it’s common for embassies to support their country’s film industry by providing funds to festivals like Doc Edge.

“But this issue of accepting funds from the Israeli embassy at a time when Israel is committing the crime of apartheid is not acceptable,” Yeoman said.

The festival takes place in Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington and online between June 1 and July 10.

Responding to a boycott call from another organization, Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa, Doc Edge executive director Dan Shanan defended the festival’s decision.

He said he was committed to “curatorial independence, the rights of filmmakers to share their important stories with New Zealanders, and the rights of our audiences to experience a rich and diverse range of viewpoints and stories”.

Rachael Penman of Doc Edge said festival supporters were

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Rachael Penman of Doc Edge said festival supporters were “a tiny fraction” of their operating budget. (File photo).

“We strongly believe that restricting free speech contributes to greater polarization around complex issues,” Shanan said.

Doc Edge general manager Rachael Penman also said she did not believe it was the festival’s place to take a position on the concerns expressed by the groups.

The festival relied on fundraising from “a whole range of supporters” — but that funding was “a tiny fraction” of the nonprofit’s operating budget, Penman said, with most coming from box office sales.

Israel's Ambassador to New Zealand Ran Yaakoby, centre, says the embassy has

David Unwin / Stuff

Israel’s Ambassador to New Zealand Ran Yaakoby, centre, says the embassy has “happy to support [Doc Edge] for many years”. (File photo).

The Israeli Embassy and the Doc Edge Festival were approached to comment on the filmmakers’ concerns, but both declined to comment further.

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