French Eurovision contestant Bilal Hassani landed in Israel on Tuesday to film his “postcard” video for this year’s competition.
Hassani is the first of this year’s competitors to arrive in the country to film a “postcard” – the short video that introduces each contestant.
KAN said Tuesday that in the coming weeks, all 41 visiting contestants will arrive to film the short videos, which will be shot across the country under the theme “Dancing Israel.”
Only 30 out of the 42 competitors have already been announced for the contest in May. Over the weekend, Ukraine selected singer Maruv to represent it, and then reversed its decision when she refused to cancel concerts scheduled in Russia.
Hassani, a 19-year-old gay Muslim singer who was born in Paris and regularly dons a wide array of colorful wigs, has been one of the most buzzed-about and promising competitors so far this year. He has also brought with him some controversy, and been the subject of racist and homophobic threats and cyberbullying.
After his win at France’s Destination Eurovision, i24 revealed that five years ago, when he was 14, Hassani had tweeted that Israel was committing “crimes against humanity” and also tweeted support for the antisemitic French comedian Dieudonné. In response, Hassani said he was “young and stupid” at the time, and he wasn’t sure if he wrote the tweets or if others with access to his account did.
Despite some calls for Hassani to boycott the Eurovision in Tel Aviv, he has expressed excitement to be taking part, and has been uploading stories from Tel Aviv to his Instagram feed since his arrival on Tuesday.
In an interview with Channel 12 News last month, Hassani said he “can’t wait” to come to Israel: “I heard the life is really exciting over there in Tel Aviv. I can’t wait to see the sun and I can’t wait to visit.”
In response to the controversies, Hassani said: “Sometimes there are people who try to make it a political event but I’m not about that. The stage is a sacred place.”