- open letter from Malcolm Guy Director / Producer.
Montréal, March, 2009 — Les Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois (RVCQ), the annual festival honouring Quebec cinema, has just wrapped its 2009 edition with the awards evening. Special congratulations to Richard Brouillette, who won the Prix Pierre et Yolande Perrault / Meilleur espoir documentaire for his film Encirclement : Neo-Liberalism Ensnares Democracy and also to our friends at Péripheria, who won the short film award for Three mothers by Daniel Schachter.
You may not be aware, but one award was cut from the Rendez-vous this year.
I was involved in pushing for the festival to drop the prize for Tolerance through cinema (le prix de la Fondation Ruth et Alex Dworkin pour la promotion de la Tolérance à travers le cinéma). Please find below an open letter signed by almost 60 members of the Quebec film community supporting the decision by the RVCQ to no longer present this controversial award. This letter was sent to the Rendez-vous on January 19, 2009.
Open letter to the Rendez-Vous du Cinéma Québécois
A recent e-mail to filmmaker Malcolm Guy from Ségolène Roederer, the directrice générale du Rendez-Vous du Cinéma Québécois was curt but clear :
Bonjour, I confirm that the Rendez-vous has decided to no longer award the prize of the Ruth and Alex Dworkin Foundation for the promotion of Tolerance through cinema. (translation)
Surprising as it may seem, this is very good news and the Festival is to be congratulated for taking this decision.
A little history is in order. In February, 2008 Montreal-based filmmaker Malcolm Guy addressed an open letter to the Rendez-Vous in which he officially withdrew as a member of the jury for the 2008 Prize of the Alex and Ruth Dworkin Foundation for the Promotion of Tolerance through Cinema (2008 Prix annuel de la Fondation Alex et Ruth Dworkin pour la promotion de la tolérance à travers le cinéma). The award, which included a grant of $5000, went “to a producer representing the production team which has best demonstrated, in the winning work, a message of comprehension and tolerance”.
Guy suggested that the Rendez-Vous cut its ties with the Tolérance prize because “(b)ehind this noble sounding “award for tolerance” hides a story of intolerance, division and discrimination.”
Guy explained that the annual Prize of the Alex and Ruth Dworkin Foundation is an initiative of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Quebec Region, an organization which he considers to be “fundamentally intolerant of dissent and difference, particularly when it comes to Israeli government policies”. In his letter he raised two main arguments.
Firstly, he pointed to the refusal of the national leadership of the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) to accept a membership application from the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians (ACJC).
Guy wrote that the ACJC presents itself as a “cross-Canada alliance of Jewish anti-occupation forces” that is critical of Israel’s pursuit of “a primarily military strategy while claiming to speak in the name of Jewish people around the world.” The ACJC says that, “Canadians, especially Jewish Canadians, seeking a peaceful resolution to the seemingly endless Israel-Palestinian conflict should no longer remain silent in the face of Israel’s actions in the Occupied Territories.” He said that the decision of the CJC to deny membership to an organization critical of the Israeli government’s policies revealed a lack of tolerance.
Secondly, Guy also revealed that that Alex and Ruth Dworkin are major backers of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and are among a select group of people “who have demonstrated an enduring commitment to Israel and JNF” by contributing $1 million and above to this institution.
Guy said that the JNF has been involved in many controversial projects in Israel, which, “under the guise of reforestation and land purchase”, have led to “the massive displacement of the Palestinian people and the occupation of their land”.
He pointed to the example of Canada Park, which is located a short distance from Jerusalem. He wrote, “In a documentary widely shown on Canadian television entitled “Park with no peace,” it was revealed that this JNF-sponsored park, using tax-deductible money raised in Canada, was built on the remains of the Palestinian villages of Imwas, Yalu and Beit Nuba. CBC TV’s *the fifth estate* stated that some 10,000 Palestinians were forcibly removed by the Israeli armed forces from the land that was eventually turned into Canada Park. As a former member of the Israeli parliament who was interviewed put it, ’Canadians were used to cover-up a war crime’.”
Guy concluded that for these reasons, “the Rendez-Vous du Cinéma Québécois should drop its affiliation with the Alex and Ruth Dworkin Foundation and the CJC. This award and award money is tainted, thus casting a negative light on the Festival.”
We, the undersigned, agree with Malcolm Guy’s decision to withdraw from the jury and for the call to put an end to this prize at the Rendez-Vous.
We understand that the decision of the Rendez-Vous to cut its ties with this prize supported by the Canadian Jewish Congress and the Alex and Ruth Dworkin Foundation was not an easy one to take. That is why we would like to salute and commend the Conseil d’administration et la direction du Rendez-Vous for this necessary, honourable and principled position. It raises the stature of the Festival and is a recognition that absolutely no intolerance can be accepted, especially from those involved in a prize for tolerance.
On this 60th anniversary of the International Declaration of Human Rights, we hope that other film festivals and arts organizations will take note of this decision and examine their consciences and their own sources of funding. We hope they will ensure that the principles of fair treatment, equality and fundamental human rights are strictly observed and that they will accept absolutely no “intolerance” or discrimination, even when support comes packaged under the guise of “tolerance” or other such terms.
signed by :
Anais Barbeau-Lavalette, director
Cameron Esler, director
Carlos Ferrand, director
Carole Poliquin, director
Ève Lamont, director
Iphigénie Marcoux-Fortier, director
Isaac Isitan, director
Julian Samuel, director
Karine van Ameringen, filmmaker
Malcolm Guy, filmmaker
Martin Duckworth, director
Martin Frigon, director
Mary Ellen Davis, director
Pascal Gélinas, director
Paul Lapointe, producer
Pierre Falardeau, director
Richard Brouillette, director
Serge Giguère, director
Stefan Verna, director
Tanya Tree, director
Additional signers (as of Sunday, March 1, 2009) :
Aisling Chin-Yee, producer
Alexandra Guité, director
Allan Brown, director
Amy Miller, director
Arnaud Bouquet, director
Arshad Khan, director
Bernard Émond, director
Boban Chaldovich, director
Brad Colbourne, director
Brett Story, director
Bruno Dubuc, director
Dominic Morissette, director and photographer
Eza Paventi, director
Francis van den Heuvel, director
Glenn Gear, director
Hala Alsalman, director
Jean-Sébastien Lalumière, DOP
Joey Calugay, director
Julien Boisvert, director
Lucie Pageau, producer
Majdi El-Omari, director
Marie Boti, director
Marie-France Côté, producer
Marielle Nitoslawska, director
Mario DeGiglio-Bellemare, director
Marlene Edoyan, producer
Martha Stiegman, director
Michelle Smith, director
Nirah Elyza Shirazipour, director
Roberto Nieto, director
Santiago Bertolino, director
Sarah Charland-Faucher, documentarian
Sarita Ahooja, videographer
Sergeo Kirby, producer
Shannon Walsh, director
Stéphane Lahoud, director
Tamara Vukov, director
Yanick Létourneau, director
Yung Chang, director