London - Haredi Filmmaker Bans Men From Screening Of Film At Israeli Film Festival
London - The screening of a highly anticipated film about a Jewish girl forced to flee her home in 15th century Spain produced by Israeli ultra-Orthodox director Rechy Elias has been cancelled by the organizers of Seret 2015 Israeli film festival.
“The Gift of Fire,” described as “a sweeping, romantic saga in a powerful historical setting,” was scheduled to be featured on June 19 in London at the Odeon in Swiss Cottage and JW3, the London Jewish community center. But the film was scrapped after cinema goers got into a fight when men were told the screening was intended strictly for a female audience.
David Lass, a male festival attendee made a complaint to both the organizers and the JW3 after being denied entrance to the film. “The festival said they were a private charity in the UK, and were entitled to hold private screenings for women only to see special films during their annual festival,” he told the Jewish Chronicle (http://bit.ly/1dFlop4).
“However, since all the cinema venues involved in the festival program are open to the general public, I believe that this policy of excluding male film-goers from all screenings would be quite unjustified under UK equality laws. I asked them if they would offer a male-only screening giving men the chance and they declined.”
Through a spokesperson, the Odeon said it does not deny entry to any film based on gender, only on age as provided by law. Because of the controversy, the co-founders of the festival said they would not screen the film. “The film contains women dancing and singing, and the haredi community, and indeed many religious Jews do not feel that men should be watching this,” the organizers said. “We respect the position of the cinema and the filmmaker alike, but have decided at this time we need to honor both parties, and the only way to do so is to cancel the screening at Odeon Swiss Cottage.”
JW3’s chief executive said the movie is for women, by women, and that should be respected. “Gift of Fire is a rare film that was made by a female director from the haredi community, and has some haredi women acting in it. The director. . . made it with the explicit intention of it only being shown to female audiences. Without that condition, she would never have made the film as she would have not been able to express herself artistically in the same way, and the some of the female actors would not have agreed to act in it. Whilst that may be very challenging to many of us, we are proud to be able to provide a platform for a female film director from the haredi community to be able to express herself artistically, as well as a safe environment for Jewish women from across the entire spectrum of the community to see this extraordinary film.”
Other Israeli films slated to be screened at the festival include “Gett,” “Zero Motivation,” “Sacred Sperm,” and “The Kindergarten Teacher,” among others.
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