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Sunday, March 07, 2010

Co-Director of Israeli Oscar nominee: I don't represent Israel

There's an Israeli movie that's up for an Oscar on Sunday night as Best International Film. The movie is called Ajami and it's about life in Jaffa, the mixed Arab - Jewish (but mostly Arab) part of Tel Aviv. It was co-directed by an 'Israeli Arab' and an Israeli Jew. To listen to the media here, we're all 'holding our fingers' (which is how they say 'keeping our fingers crossed' in Hebrew) hoping Ajami will win. Yes, those were the exact words they used on the 5:00 am news magazine Sunday morning.

But if the movie wins the Oscar, the victory is likely to be Pyrrhic for Israelis. On Saturday night, Scandar Copti, the 'Israeli Arab' co-director, was interviewed on Israel's Channel 2, and gave his Leftist benefactors (who unfortunately managed to force the Israeli taxpayer to pay for this film) a resounding slap across the face.
While many Israelis have pointed with pride to the nomination of Ajami, a movie about life in Jaffa, for an Academy Award as one of the year's best international films, the movie's co-director, Scandar Copti, says that he does not represent Israel. In an interview with Channel Two Saturday night Copti said that technically, the movie was Israeli, “because the money to pay for it came from Israel, but it is not an Israeli movie and does not represent Israel. I do not represent a country that does not represent me,” he said.
JPost adds:
Speaking to Channel 2, Copti said, “I am not the Israeli national team and I do not represent Israel,” adding that the representation issue is a “technical thing, that’s how it works in the Oscars. It says ‘Israel’ because the funding comes from Israel. There’s a Palestinian director, an Israeli director, Palestinian actors and Israeli actors. The film technically represents Israel, but I don’t represent Israel.”

Copti’s co-director, Shani, did not agree.

“It’s an Israeli film, it represents Israel, it speaks ‘Israeli’ and deals with Israel-related problems. The question of representation deals with matters of perspective and political issues we need to resolve,” Shani, who was interviewed alongside Copti, said.

Copti and Shani were interviewed only a day after a demonstration took place in Jaffa, Ajami’s setting. Demonstrators took to the streets in protest of what they call police violence against the town’s residents.

Tony and Jiras Copti, brothers of the director, were arrested in Jaffa in February. After the arrest, they claimed police used excessive force against them.
As you might imagine, Copti's comments evoked a lot of righteous indignation.
Science Minister Daniel Hershkowitz on Sunday called on Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat to conduct an investigation into how the state ended up funding the movie Ajami, in the wake of comments made Saturday by Ajami co-producer Scandar Copti, who said that he does is not representing Israel at Sunday night's Academy Awards presentations, because “Israel does not represent me.” Ajami is up for the award as best foreign film.

Copti, he said, “produced a movie using Israeli money, but is likely to wrap himself in a Hamas flag if he wins. Ajami's winning of an Oscar is likely to be Pyrrhic victory for Israel,” Hershkowitz said.
JPost adds:
Sports and Culture Minister Limor Livnat said, “It is because of Israeli funding, which Copti now tries to renounce, that the film Ajami was produced and is now nominated for an Oscar.”

“Without state support, Copti would not be walking the red carpet tonight. In the name of artistic license and pluralism, the movie was given a budget of more than NIS 2 million. It is sad that a director supported by the state ignores those who helped him create and express himself. Happily, the rest of the movie’s team see themselves as part of the State of Israel and are proud to represent it in the Oscars as ambassadors of liberated cultural expression,” Livnat added.


A furious National Union MK Michael Ben Ari suggested that Israel change the Cinema Law, which serves as the guidebook to fund Israeli films.

“Support for a film should not be granted unless the editors, producers, directors and actors sign a declaration of loyalty to the State of Israel, its symbols and its Jewish-democratic values,” he said.
I would suggest that Ben Ari check the films' content before he checks the people making it; I'm more concerned that we not fund films with a message like Jenin, Jenin's (which falsely accused IDF soldiers of perpetrating a massacre) than I am about a director who will get his five minutes in the spotlight to wrap himself in a Hamas flag on international television. But perhaps that's beside the point.

This film was probably funded before Livnat and the current government ever took office. There's a history in this country that whenever the Left is in power, we support cultural endeavors that are anti-Israel. For example, in 2000, Israel disowned its Eurovision entry because the singers waved Syrian flags as part of their performance. It's that history that needs to be confronted.

The problem in Israel is that we fail to distinguish between allowing free expression and funding it. Perhaps this movie should never have been funded. Not having seen it, I cannot say that with certainty. But the government was certainly under no obligation to fund artistic works by people who are disloyal to the State. The problem is that lesson will be quickly forgotten when and if the Left gains power again. Ben Ari should worry what happens the next time the Left is in power - not about what Livnat might fund.


At 9:07 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

With all that is going on in Israel you would think people would not put their false hopes into what movie win the Oscars

It's like the people in America on the left side of the political spectrum hoping that "Avatar" win because it will wake up the people on the right!

Such nonsense!

At 10:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stupid Jews.

At 12:38 AM, Blogger David_77 said...

I will never, ever understand why Israel didn't just expell ALL the Arabs in either 1948 or 1967. It's not like you score points for treating people fairly, and it doesn't really help your image - everyone still makes up lies about Israel being an "apartheid state" anyway.


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