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Israel’s Channel 1 says no to Gitai film

Pubcaster deems director not Israeli enough

TEL AVIV — Israel’s Channel 1, the country’s main pubcaster, has decided not to buy Amos Gitai’s new film “Disengagement” on the grounds that the helmer is not Israeli enough. The move comes only two weeks since the pubcaster’s chief exec Motti Shklar inked a deal with Gitai to buy his back catalogue for 200k dollars. That deal was nixed last week after the channel’s board on the grounds that Gitai’s politics were too left-wing and because the helmer doesn’t live entirely in Israel.

The surprise move is all the more notable given Gitai’s status amongst Israeli helmers. Although not a big box office draw, the helmer is credited with having opened the doors for Israeli filmmakers on the international scene, regularly having his films selected at major film festivals. The helmer has had numerous pix selected at both Cannes (“Kadosh”; “Kippur”; “Kedma”; “Free Zone”) and Venice (“Eden”; “Alila”; “Promised Land” and “Disengagement”).

“Disengagement” — a late addition to this year’s Venice competish — stars Juliette Binoche, Jeanne Moreau and Liron Levo. Pic tells the story of the Israeli pullout from the occupied Gaza strip through the story of a French woman (Binoche) who comes to look for her brother who lives in Israel.

“It’s plain McCarthyism,” says Gitai. “I live in Israel, I served in the Israeli army, my children did the same, and now I need to prove myself in front of them? Maybe the head of the committee should update about my nationality with the Syrian intelligence that shut down my plane in the 1973 war.”

Two months ago helmer Eyal Sivan, winner of the Yamagata International Documentary festival for his epic four and a half hour long documentary “Route 181: Fragments of a Journey in Palestine-Israel,” suffered a similar fate when his new project “Jaffa” was rejected by the Rabinovitch fund, Israel’s second biggest source of coin, with fund execs citing Sivan didn’t live and Paris and held “anti-Zionist” views.

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