Queer Cinema for Palestine Pushes Back Against Israel’s “Pinkwashing”

As Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip enters its seventh week, the Queer Cinema for Palestine (QCP) festival returns for its third iteration, amplifying the global movement for a permanent ceasefire through film screenings across cities including Berlin, Toronto, Amsterdam, and Seoul.

The international event opened with a sold-out short film program on Saturday in London under the title No Pride in Genocide, calling attention to the Israeli military’s ongoing attacks on Gaza and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Running until December 10, the festival continues tonight, December 4, with short film screenings in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver, and can also be streamed online through the Toronto Queer Film Festival website.

Emerging from a 2020 protest campaign led by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), QPC first launched in 2021 as an alternative to the Israeli government-sponsored Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival, otherwise known as TLVFest. Accusing the Israeli state of “pinkwashing,” at least 268 filmmakers, artists, scholars, and cultural workers have signed QPC’s pledge to boycott TLVFest, which was postponed this year with no rescheduled dates announced yet. In addition, dozens more have withdrawn their films from participation with eight more joining the protest as of last week, decrying Israel’s current “most far-right, fundamentalist, misogynist and homophobic government” in a joint statement.

Still from John Greyson’s Photo Booth (2022)

Since Hamas fighters killed 1,200 people and took 200 hostages in Israel on October 7, the Israeli military’s airstrikes, multi-scaled siege, and ground invasion have killed at least 15,523 and displaced more than 1.9 million Palestinians in the Gaza enclave, the United Nations reported yesterday, December 3. In addition, Israeli forces and settlers have killed at least 252 Palestinians in the West Bank, and around the world, violent attacks on Arabs, Muslims, and Jews have spiked. 

“This new Nakba calls on all of us to stand up and be counted, saying loudly and queerly that there’s no pride in Genocide — and that as queer and trans artists, we’ll honour the Palestinian boycott call,” QCP co-organizer John Greyson told Hyperallergic. The Toronto New Wave filmmaker and activist has refused to participate in TLVFest since he first withdrew his documentary Fig Trees (2009) from participation in 2009, in response to Israel’s Operation Cast Lead assault on Gaza.

“When the current genocide began, we all had doubts about going forward — but we were very inspired and energized and moved by PACBI’s clear directive to go forward with QCP,” Greyson said.

Still from Annie Sakkab’s The Poem We Sang (2023)

This year, Queer Cinema for Palestine will include screenings by filmmakers such as Basma al-Sharif and Jumana Manna, both of whom also withdrew their films from the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam last month to protest the event’s alleged censorship of the Palestinian liberation movement. There will also be solidarity screenings held in additional cities in the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, and Basque Country. The festival will conclude on Human Rights Day in London, Ontario with screenings of Greyson’s experimental split-screen film Photo Booth (2022) and Palestinian artist Razan AlSalah’s short “Your Father Was Born 100 Years Old, and So Was the Nakba” (2017). 

“For all of us, QCP is a chance to listen to and spotlight all sorts of Palestinian voices, in the context of this global cine-solidarity project with Palestine,” Greyson continued. “It’s a chance to add our voices (and films) to global calls for an immediate ceasefire. It’s a chance to stand up and oppose this monstrous new Nakba.”

More information about QPC can be accessed on the festival’s website.

Another still from John Greyson’s Photo booth (2023)

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