After showing my short experimental film about HIV/AIDS and intergenerational queer politics called things are different now... at the MIXNYC experimental film festival in the fall of 2012, I started receiving screening requests for my work at film festivals from all over North America and Europe. As an emerging artist it felt nice to have broad interest in my work from a vast array of curators and to feel that my do-it-yourself, no-budget, and unapologetically political artistic work was being valued.
Many film festivals have some considerable problems when artists whose work is shown receive no compensation, despite the fact that the festival operates with many corporate sponsors, a large pool of volunteer labor, and that both artists and audience pay fees to show/view films--but I still like the idea of groups of people coming together to experience something collectively, so I'll save my lengthy critique of contemporary film festivals for another day...
This past March, I received a request to show my work at Frameline, the oldest and quite possibly the most prestigious LGBT film festival on the planet. I was excited about the opportunity, having never shown work there before, but I was also aware of a particular problem with this film festival: its complicity with the Israeli government's pinkwashing of human rights abuses perpetrated against Palestinians.
From a recent letter to the Frameline Board of Directors demanding they stop accepting sponsorships from the Israeli Consulate:
LGBTQI Palestinians have asked international queers to respect the cultural and academic boycott of Israel called by Palestinian civil society in 2005. Please read their statement. The call of Palestinian civil society makes it clear that any institution sponsored by or partnering with any agency of the Israeli government is a target of boycott by people who support a just peace in the region. Boycott, divestment and sanctions are time-honored nonviolent strategies for political and social change. Queer Palestinian groups and other queer organizations have urged Frameline to take a stand against the injustices suffered by the Palestinians under occupation by Israel.
This letter was signed by well-known queer and trans artists and educators like John Greyson, Angela Davis, Susan Stryker, Barbara Hammer, Sarah Schulman, Eric Stanley, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, and Alice Walker, amongst many others.
Frameline has also been targeted by Bay Area activists like Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT) for a decade now, and the broader Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel has garnered support from an international roster of artists, educators, and activists including numerous Israelis opposed to their own government's treatment of Palestinians.
Knowing all this, I was reluctant to send my work to Frameline to be screened. After inquiring whether or not the Israeli government would once again sponsor the festival I was told that it was unclear and depended on programming which was not finalized at the time I inquired. I hesitantly sent my work to one of the friendly and accommodating festival programmers only to learn later that the Israeli government was indeed sponsoring the festival in 2013. At that point the decision I had to make was crystal clear--I have not, and never will, cross a picket line.
After pulling my short film from the festival and chatting it over with friend and fellow artist provocateur Louis Chavez, I learned that many other mutual friends of ours were similarly contacted about sending work to Frameline this year. None of us are well known and we carry little political clout or cultural capital compared to those already involved in the boycott mentioned above. Although we have far more to lose than established artists by not showing our work, we still stuck by our ethics.
We know our decision to stand with LGBTQI Palestinians is unlikely to bring an end to Frameline's partnership with Israel this year, but I can only hope that our actions will help encourage other young filmmakers to find the courage to say "No!" to Frameline, despite the much-needed publicity and potential opportunities that participating in the festival affords to emerging artists.
Please consider contacting Frameline (firstname.lastname@example.org / 415-703-8650) or sign the petition to let Frameline know how you feel!