Toronto's City to City controversy escalates

Controversy surrounding the Toronto Film Festival’s first City to City program, which spotlights Tel Aviv cinema, is escalating.

Last week veteran Toronto filmmaker John Greyson withdrew his short documentary “Covered” from the fest to protest the showcase of Israeli filmmaking.

On Thursday a letter of support was published online, endorsed by more than 50 prominent names in the international culture and media communities including Alice Walker, John Berger, Ken Loach, Jane Fonda, Danny Glover, David Byrne, Slavoj Zizek and several Israeli and Palestinian artists.

“We protest that Toronto, whether intentionally or not, has become complicit in the Israeli propaganda machine,” the letter states, referring to “Brand Israel,” a media and advertising campaign Israel’s Foreign Ministry is launching in Toronto this month.

This aims to focus attention away from Israel’s conflict with the Palestinian territories and toward the country’s achievements in science and culture.

In a letter, also posted online, Greyson states his protest isn’t against the program’s films or filmmakers but rather its “smug business-as-usual aura” in light of an international economic boycott campaign led by Palestinian NGOs.

Last week fest co-director Cameron Bailey responded to Greyson in an open letter on the fest’s website, stating City to City “was conceived and curated entirely independently. There was no pressure from any outside source.”

In July, Loach yanked his Cannes entry “Looking for Eric” from the Melbourne Film Festival after it refused to reject funding from Israel for a fest visit by Tatia Rosenthal, helmer of Oz-Israel co- production “$9.99.”

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