Melbourne Queer Film Festival slammed over 'pinkwashing' Israeli film screening

Melbourne Queer Film Festival slammed over 'pinkwashing' Israeli film screening
Then Melbourne Queer Film Festival (MQFF) has drawn backlash for going ahead with the screening of an Israeli film which activists say 'pinkwashes' the Jewish state's image.
2 min read
19 November, 2021
Queer BDS activists have also expressed disappointment in the MQFF for not "promoting one film from the Arabic-speaking world" [Jeanine Hourani/TNA]

Pro-Palestine activists protested against the Melbourne Queer Film Festival's (MQFF) decision on Friday to go ahead with the screening of the Israeli film 'The Swimmer', despite calls for its removal from the festival's programme.

Activists accused the film of "pinkwashing" Israel's image - in this context being when the Jewish state is promoted as as queer-friendly and Palestinians as "intolerant" to distract attention from Israel's human rights record and its occupation of Palestinian land.

MQFF, who queer BDS activists also say have not promoted "one film from the Arabic-speaking world", said The Swimmer would not be removed in an attempt to "remain apolitical", in a statement released on Tuesday.

"To be queer is a politicised identity and so for a queer film festival to come forward and say they strive to be apolitical really offended a lot of people," Friday's protest organiser Jeanine Hourani told The New Arab.

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"Queer Palestinians are politicised every single day... the Israeli occupation threaten to out them if they do not comply with [them]... the key message from the [queer] community here is that we want a festival that better represents [our] needs, demands and values," Hourani continued.

Following calls for The Swimmer to be removed, two MQFF board members - including ex-Co-President Molly Whelan - resigned.  Their resignation letter stated that their values and vision were no longer in line with the board, VICE reported.

“I don’t see a willingness to make the changes that are necessary for MQFF to stay relevant and respected in LGBTIQA+ communities," the letter read.

Contrary to the activists' claims, MQFF state their festival will include the short film 'Borekas' from Palestine. However, the film is not listed in their official programme and does appear on their site when searching for tickets.

The festival also said they could "do better in making sure that the diversity of these stories [in our program] is being seen by our communities", in a statement last week.