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Israeli Film Festival Dropped By UK Cinemas Over “Safety Concerns”

The Seret International Film Festival, an Israeli film event hosted in cities across the globe, has criticized its longtime UK partners Picturehouse and Curzon Cinemas for backing out of this year’s event over what organizers described as “safety concerns.”

The Seret Film Festival was launched in 2012 by Odelia Haroush, who accused Picturehouse and Curzon in a Times of London interview of enabling “cancel culture.”

“Their role should be to show films and culture and not cancel culture,” Haroush told the paper. “Especially now; don’t cancel Palestinian culture, Russian culture, Ukrainian culture, or Israeli culture.”

The Times reports that Picturehouse and Curzon pulled out of hosting due to “safety fears.” We reached out to both boutique chains for comment. Neither were available to discuss the matter. Haroush also told the paper that the festival had to cancel screenings in Cambridge due to the “political atmosphere with the university and students there.” 

“It is not that I am going to show [films] that show everything is blooming and great in Israel. We pick films on their artistic values and not political values. But I believe from the bottom of my heart in free speech,” Haroush told the paper, adding that filmmakers were “not the ones to blame for what is going on in Israel.” 

Haroush said Picturehouse had told her in November that they wouldn’t be able to host any screenings because cinema management was “afraid” for staff and visitors. Curzon dropped out in February, Haroush told the paper, after an Israeli strike on a food truck in Gaza. 

The festival has now launched an online crowdfunder to generate financial support for this year’s edition, which is set to run May 16-23. The funding page reads: “In recent months, our festival and partners in the UK and Europe have faced relentless attacks. Antisemitic groups have exerted pressure on cinema houses, threatening boycotts and demanding the cancellation of our festival. Long-standing partners are receiving threats from anti-Israel entities, coercing them to withdraw their support under the threat of ongoing demonstrations and boycotts.” 

The page adds that all donations will be used to “fund alternative screening spaces and top-tier security measures.”

Protests have been a constant presence around Palestinian and Israeli cultural events in the UK following October 7, when a Hamas-led attack on Israel saw more than 1100 people killed and 200 taken hostage. The Gaza health ministry last week said that at least 32,845 people have been killed during Israel’s campaign in the territory. 

Previous films to screen at Seret include Ahed’s Knee by Nadav Lapid, My Neighbor Adolf by Leon Prudovsky, and Sagi Bornstein, Udi Nir, Shani Rozanes’s feature doc Golda. The festival also hosts screenings in Chile, Germany, Holland, and Argentina.

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