Thursday, September 6, 2007

How was this not entirely predictable?

The San Diego Women's Film Foundation was forced to issue a somewhat embarrassing apology on Sept. 5:


A statement was given by the San Diego Women's Film Festival Director in support of the Boycott of Israeli films. The San Diego Women Film Foundation and Festival would like to apologize to all in the community - we are embarrassed and horrified to learn such a position was taken without our knowledge or consent. It is the personal view of the Festival Director and not the view of the San Diego Women Film Foundation and we in no way support, sponsor or condone their statements. Furthermore, the mission of the San Diego Women Film Foundation is to empower, promote and mentor young women and women filmmakers by developing opportunities to expose the art of filmmaking and to tell women's stories to broad and diverse audiences. We do not promote or take a position with any political or religious issues.

For the record, the San Diego Women Film Foundation and Festival is NOT boycotting Israeli films. We are hopeful that filmmakers from the Israeli community will continue to submit films. Actions regarding the Festival Director will be dealt with internally. Again, our deepest and most sincere apologies.

- San Diego Women Film Foundation Board of Directors

Apparently the director of the San Diego Women's Film Festival, Jennifer Hsu, took it upon herself to announce a boycott of Israeli films, and the American Jewish Committee (among other groups) brought her action to the attention of the Foundation.

The American Jewish Committee today expressed appreciation to the San Diego Women Film Foundation and Festival (SDWFF) after it reversed a ban that the festival director had unilaterally imposed against showing Israeli films during the October event.

"We are pleased that the Film Foundation recognized the Festival Director's errant behavior and has moved expeditiously to correct the injustice of excluding Israeli filmmakers," said Tad Seth Parzen, president of AJC's San Diego Chapter.

The Foundation's apology was posted on the SDWFF website, after AJC's San Diego Chapter made a number of inquiries earlier today about the Festival's posture regarding Israeli filmmakers.

My question is, how was this episode not entirely predictable, therefore avoidable? Jennifer Hsu's position on freedom of expession for Israeli artists is a matter of public record. Here's her bio from Alternate Focus, an organization who says "its three founding directors, a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim, are working together for peace and justice by offering the American public media which shows another side of Middle Eastern issues."

Jennifer Hsu

Jennifer Hsu is currently the Festival Director for the San Diego Women Film Festival, and a video documentary-maker. She has an activist art media focus that pervades her work, and she works in the name of feminism, Arabism and the civil liberties movement. Her most recent video project, a collaboration with her partner, Jeremy Taylor, centers on Palestinian and Iraqi refugees living in Yarmouk, a refugee camp in Damascus, Syria. Jennifer has also worked extensively with Women in the Director's Chair Film Festival, TV show "UpFront with Reverend Jesse Jackson", and the University of Chicago Center for Urban School Improvement.

I guess we know what side Alternate Focus focuses on.

Ms. Hsu is also a signatory to the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. That makes her just exactly the kind of impartial advocate of women in the arts that you want to run a women's film festival, because we all know that Israel is unique among Middle Eastern nations in its oppressive treatment of women... or maybe not.

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