Veteran gay filmmaker John Greyson has withdrawn his short film Covered from the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in protest over the inaugural City to City program on Tel Aviv. In a public letter dated Aug 27 Greyson zeroed in on press comments from the Israeli Consul General Amir Gissin describing the Tel Aviv spotlight as the culmination of the Israeli government’s “Brand Israel” campaign.
Despite being a supporter of an economic boycott campaign against Israel, Greyson’s letter discusses the “specific and strategic” details of when he participates in such a boycott. He criticizes the Tel Aviv spotlight as too one-sided, lacking diverse voices from displaced Palestinians or underground artists.
“What eventually determined my decision to pull out was the subject of Covered itself,” Greyson writes. “It’s a doc about the 2008 Sarajevo Queer Festival, which was cancelled due to brutal anti-gay violence. The film focuses on the bravery of the organizers and their supporters and, equally, on the ostriches, on those who remained silent, who refused to speak out: most notoriously the Sarajevo International Film Festival and the Canadian ambassador in Sarajevo. To stand in judgment of these ostriches before a TIFF audience, but then say nothing about this Tel Aviv spotlight — finally, I realized that that was a brand I couldn’t stomach.”
The letter and Greyson’s short film Covered are hosted on Vimeo.com/6308870.