The Seret Festival, a celebration of Israeli film and television, kicked off on Monday in six cities across the UK, despite attempts to organize a boycott of the event.
The two-week long festival is bringing more than two dozen Israeli productions to movie theaters in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Brighton and Cambridge. Last week, days before the event opened, 20 British filmmakers called on the participating cinema houses to boycott the event.
"We’re shocked and dismayed to see how many mainstream cinemas – among them Picturehouse and Everyman – are hosting this year’s Israeli film festival, Seret, whose funders and supporters include the Israeli government and a clutch of pro-Israel advocacy organisations," wrote the group in an open letter in the Guardian. The signatories included perennial anti-Israel activist Ken Loach, who was accused of Holocaust denial in 2017, and famed screenwriter and director Mike Leigh. "We cannot understand why cultural institutions continue to behave as if Israel is an ordinary democracy," they wrote. "It is not. Palestinians deserve better than this. UK cinemas should not be hosting Seret."
But in a follow-up open letter in The Guardian published Monday, the organizers of the festival hit back.
"We are surprised that, yet again, there has been a call for a boycott on screening films from Israel here in the UK, from film-makers who believe that they are supporting the 'Palestinian cause,'" wrote Anat Koren, Odelia Haroush and Patty Hochmann. "Israeli films are distributed globally, and the cinemas they are screened in are delighted and proud to show them to their audiences... we look forward to welcoming film lovers from every community and faith."
In addition to holding several dozen film screenings, Seret will also host a variety of Q&A events with directors and actors at theaters in London. Dan Shadur, the director of the documentary King Bibi, will take part in the festival, as will Jacob Goldwasser, the director of Laces, and Moshe Folkenflik and Joseph Madmony, the star and creator of the award-winning film Geula, stylized in English as Redemption.
According to the festival's directors, this year they worked to highlight film and documentaries which "comment on the plight of ‘the other’ through examining immigration, sexual transition and disability. We have chosen films which examine fatherhood and family trauma with heart and soul; which open the lid on suppressed political intrigues, which share religious and spiritual journeys, and which demonstrate the effects of the wars of yesterday and today."