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70+ Arab filmmakers blast recent UAE-Israeli cinema cooperation

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The logo of Abu Dhabi Film Commission (ADFC)

More than 70 filmmakers and film professionals from Palestine and other Arab countries have denounced a recent cooperation pact between Israeli cinemas and those of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), calling for solidarity across the Arab film world.

Last week, the UAE’s Abu Dhabi Film Commission (ADFC) and two Tel Aviv-backed film companies - Israel Film Fund (IFF) and the Jerusalem Sam Spiegel Film and Television School (JSFS) - announced that they planned to collaborate on a series of initiatives.

They added that the cooperation included educational exchange, joint film production, television projects, and a regional film festival.

The announcement came in the wake of much-condemned US-brokered normalization deals the UAE and Bahrain signed with Israel during a ceremony in Washington last month. The event was vehemently lambasted by the Palestinian leadership and many Arab and Muslim figures as a blatant betrayal of the Palestinian cause.

In a petition, carried by Palestine's official Wafa news agency on Saturday, the Arab filmmakers said they had been “shocked” that the ADFC had agreed to work with Israeli film companies given that Palestinians were still living under decades-long and increasingly deteriorating “military occupation.”

“We Palestinian filmmakers were deeply hindered and affected by this colonialism and military occupation. Our productions depended on foreign financing and support that allowed us to express and write our stories, share our daily lives and aspirations in some small way. We were able to overcome the barriers of our colonial reality to present pioneering and valuable cinematic works,” it further read.

The signatories of the petition also called on their Emirati counterparts and other Arab film professionals to “renounce the partnership” and to refuse to work with the ADFC and any other institution in the Arab world that reached cooperation agreements with the Tel Aviv regime.

“We were and still are part of Arab cinema, our most prominent reference. We have always sought to develop it, and our ambition has crystallized towards partnerships and co-productions with our fellow colleagues as the best way to advance Arab cinema,” they added.

Ismail Haniyeh, head of the political bureau of the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, earlier warned that normalization efforts by some Arab countries will escalate Israeli acts of aggression against the Palestinian nation.

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