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Israel culture ministry in bid to axe gay film festival

Israel culture ministry in bid to axe gay film festival

Tel Aviv’s International LGBT film festival, known as TLVFest, barely survived an attempt by the Israeli ministry of culture to shut it down.

While TLVFest has for now been saved, Yair Hochner, its founder and director, told Gay Star News, it faces funding discrimination which threatens its future.

TLVFest is the Middle East and one of Asia’s largest LGBT film festivals and will celebrate its 8th anniversary in June 2013.

The festival takes place each June at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque and the Tel Aviv LGBT Community Center, offering public screenings of films with no Israeli distribution.

It also provides an essential space for meeting between local as well as foreign filmmakers, panel discussions, awards for LGBT Israeli films and a monthly screenings throughout the year.

Speaking with GSN, Hochner explains: ‘The chair of the Israeli Film Council (IFC) which is part of the ministry of culture and sport wanted to shut us down by inserting a criterion that would have us lose all our funding.

‘The IFC proposed, to change its film festival funding criteria to only support festivals with budgets of NIS 500,000 (US$ 134,331 € 100,736), ours is ten times smaller.

‘Fortunately the bid failed, at least for now.

‘However, we now face a problem of discrimination in terms of funding.

‘TLVFest, which is in fact a large event, screening 144 films last year, receives up to four times less funding compared to festivals of a similar size.

‘It is even discriminated compared to festivals classified by the IFC as ‘small’ (up to 25 films screenings), which receive on average between NIS 10,000 to 50,000 ( US$ 2,687-13,433, € 2,015-10,074) more funding than TLV LGBT Film Festival.

‘The problem is that we have an IFC chair who is lives in a settlement in the occupied West Bank and is a devout religious Jew, he naturally has very little sympathy to the LGBT community.

‘I am even more fearful of what will happen after the February elections [to the Israeli parliament], just imagine if the IFC’s directory will be dominated by religious ultra-orthodox or some extreme right wing politicians?

‘The minister of culture, Limor Livnat, says she is a friend of the LGBT community and made impressive pro-gay pre-election promises, with respect, I’d like to see her take more action and less words.

‘Our politicians are very quick to talk about Tel Aviv and Israel as a gay friendly place yet they do little to help concretely LGBT rights or cultural projects like TLVFest’.

Hochner is hoping that an annual fundraiser, scheduled for tomorrow (16 January), will be enough to keep the festival alive.

The fundraiser will feature New York’s independent filmmaker, Jonathan Lisecki’s film ‘Gayby’, which is about a straight woman and gay bachelor who decide to bring up a child together.