Fest plays down Israeli sponsorship

LONDON — The Locarno Film Festival has dropped any mention of the Israeli Foreign Ministry as a sponsor of its Leopards of Tomorrow section in response to protests from Arab filmmakers in the wake of the crises in Lebanon and Gaza.

The filmmakers, including Palestinian helmer Elia Suleiman, had sent a petition asking fest organizers to “reconsider their relationship to the government of Israel and withdraw the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs from the list of sponsors.” They also had threatened to boycott the fest, which opens Aug. 2 in Switzerland.

The ministry’s logo has been removed from the fest Web site, press release and brochure.

However, a fest spokesman refused to confirm whether the ministry had been dropped as a sponsor outright.

“The answer is not yes or no,” one fest rep told Daily Variety, in a characteristic display of Swiss neutrality.

Fest organizers issued a release reaffirming hopes that all filmmakers will come to Locarno “despite the very difficult current situation” adding that the fest, “wishes to create a space for reflection and a dialogue between people about culture and film.”

In a separate development, a group of Lebanese filmmakers and artists in Paris have called for short films of less than one minute that reflect the Lebanon crisis to be sent to email address 1001prod@cyberia.net.lb.

The films will be screened during the Biennale of Arab Cinema in Paris, which started Saturday and ends July 30.

Half a dozen films have already been sent, including one featuring a trumpeter playing on his Beirut balcony, drowned out by the sound of bombing.

“As filmmakers we don’t just want to repeat the same images we see on the news,” said a member of the Paris group, who preferred to remain anonymous. “We want to create images and sounds that will allow the audience to feel what it’s like to be under siege.”

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