Thirteen years ago, in the darkness of the Third Ear cinema, now sadly closed, a miracle occured; the first Tel Aviv LGBT film festival took place. Even though the cinemas were tiny, with seat numbers ranging from 40 to a mere 16, some 2,000 people attended the festival during its four-day run. It was quite an achievement for a newly-created event that had no publicity or support.
Holding a LGBT film festival in Israel in 2018, is undeniably a political and social act, and this becomes twice as clear when we look at the annual growth of verbal and physical violence against members of the LGBT community. Violent rhetoric by religious leaders and right-wing politicians is similarly on the rise; at times, it appears that this rise is entirely unchecked. This is manifested in the position taken by the Ministries of Interior, Justice, and Welfare on LGBT couples and families. Last summer we went out in protests on adoption, but the issue has seen little progress since then, as numerous appeals are made to courts across the country.
LGBT film festivals that truly make a difference are the ones working to change reality. We are hosting Manny de Guerre and Gulya Sultanova, directors of the Russian SIDE BY SIDE Film Festival, which marked its first-decade anniversary in 2017 despite incessant attempts by Russian authorities and religious leaders to suppress it.
We will bring local audiences together with pioneering Brazilian transgender musician and social activist Linn de Quebrada, who is the voice of fellow dark-skinned trans-women from the São Paulo favelas. De Quebrada, star of the documentary film Tranny Bitch. New York-based burlesque artist Miss Rosewood, another guest at the festival, is renowned for shattering every possible myth about gender, sexuality, and the human body in her shows.
The opening film My Days of Mercy, directed by Tali Shalom-Ezer, starring Ellen Page and Kate Mara, and produced by festival guest Christine Vachon (Boys Don’t Cry, Carol, Far From Heaven) is much more than a lesbian love story. At its core is capital punishment, one of the biggest conflicts within American society. It is a conflict that some extreme-right politicians are interested in introducing into Israeli society, making this film even more relevant for local audiences.
As in previous years, we will host two contestants from RuPaul’s Drag Race: Peppermint and Alexis Michelle.
In light of the Ministry of Culture’s attempts to restrict freedom of speech by withholding funds from dance, theater, and cinema events that include nudity, this year we will hold a special event titled Who is Afraid of Nudity. We asked our friends at the Berlin Porn Festival to prepare three short film programs that look into the many colors of LGBTQ sexuality. Culture, including culture that features nudity, is the essence of freedom of speech. All programs contain nudity and are limited to viewers aged 18 and older.
We continue holding the Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival in the face of institutional discrimination on the part of the City of Tel Aviv, which refuses to set our funding at the same level as that of other events, such as the student film festival or the children and young adults film festival. Despite these many difficulties, our festival continues to resonate throughout the world . In 2017, I was invited to judge at the illustrious Cannes Film Festival, and recently did the same at the Guadalajara International Film Festival, the most important Latin American cinematic event. It is only here in Israel that those in power continuously refuse to acknowledge our achievements and attempt to damage the festival.
Last year, extremists on both the left and the right, motivated by outlandish political reasons, attempted to hurt the festival. We did not, and will not, surrender in the face of violence. TLVFest must stand firm against violence, corruption, and intolerance, and fight for the freedom of speech and civil rights of the LGBT community and of minorities living in Israel. We are here to continue spreading LGBT culture and cinema across the country, provoke thought, bring down walls, and build Bridges between different cultures. Our only goal is to spread the message of peace, love and of pluralism. I invite you to join our cultural revolution by purchasing a ticket to one of our films today.
Founder + Artistic Director