[ will be updating this as new statements come in ]
The Radical Access Mapping Project supports Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, Sins Invalid, SFPIRG, Can Candan, and a number of individuals and groups from the QTIPOC ad hoc organization letter, and all others who have publicly stated they will not attend or support the Vancouver Queer Film Festival until it adequately addresses the pinkwashing it has engaged in. Many others have spoken to the issue and may or may not heed the call for boycott and pull their films and support, but all seem to be engaged in conversation about tactics, and finding ways to move forward that will bring some fundamental change. We give much respect to QuAIA for initiating the discussions years ago, with considerably less community support.
We encourage folks to please contact VQFF immediately and share your thoughts. Since originally writing the letter below to VQFF in July, in followup discussion it has been made clear that while discussion has certainly happened at VQFF, nothing is going to change for this years festival, nothing specific will be done to address this issue while the festival is on, and i am unclear as to whether the promises of engagement for post-festival will come to pass.
You can see more at the VQFF website where Drew Dennis, the Executive Director, speaks to the issue: http://www.queerfilmfestival.ca/viewEvents/A_Message_from_Drew_Dennis/94/24/286/.
Commentary like “…the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is a deeply personal and political issue…“, and “…we have decided to donate the funds received from this advertisement to Just Vision…” (which is actually not the kind of organization i feel addresses the issues, but reinforces the notion that this is some sort of equal-footing “conflict”, which it so clearly is not) does not instill confidence in a real look at what the issues are.
RAMP holds out hope that something will change, but for now, we are pulling all our support from the VQFF and will instead work to support those individuals and organizations who are actively rejecting pinkwashing at VQFF and beyond. We may offer some kind of support for folks wishing to engage in dialogue or other action within the festival.
Most importantly, RAMP sends a message of solidarity to all disabled people, everywhere, and particularly those facing occupation and other forms of state violence, and escalating military actions as we write this. We see you. We will not participate in the occupations being forced upon you. And we will not contribute legitimacy to your erasure by our presence at this festival.
From here on Turtle Island, to Palestine and beyond. Solidarity! Resistance! Liberation!
July 11, 2014
To the Board of Directors, Donor Services & all staff at the Vancouver Queer Film Fest,
It is with great dismay that i’ve decided to cease being a monthly financial donor to the festival. i’ve maintained my donor status for many years despite living on a meagre income, as well as having been on the VQFF programming committee for 3 years, and supporting the VQFF in other ways including but not limited to issues of accessibility, because i believe in what the festival is about; and with a few exceptions have been -until recently- proud to do so.
[The issue of the truly problematic "passport" to a variety of hotly-protested gentrifying businesses in the DTES is something i'll note here but put aside for now, because i want to speak specifically to something else which is of immediate concern.]
i was angered to find a half-page, full-on pinkwashing advert from Yad b’Yad when i received my guide in the mail yesterday. There is SO much i want to say about this, but will try to keep it as brief and to the point as possible.
Given that the Vancouver Queer Film Festival is intended to reflect, uplift, celebrate and be responsive to our communities; and given that there have been years of unhindered access to informed, grassroots, and critical commentary from concerned and affected community members queer and otherwise; and given my understanding of Israels’ historical and current broad-based oppression of and undeniably outrageous military settler-colonial assault on the Palestinian people occurring as i write this; and given my deeply held belief and understanding that Palestinians ARE part of my community:
After many years of supporting this festival, after having hoped for a turnaround by the VQFF on this since the 2012 actions around 2 films shown at the festival, and while there are considerably fewer consequences for me to say this than so many others who’ve been saying as much and more for years, i’ve come to the conclusion that i can no longer in good conscience help fund this festival, and hereby cancel my automatic payment arrangement with you.
i believe that the Vancouver Queer Film Festival has entirely betrayed its claims to “illuminate queer lives through film”, when it so blatantly and unflinchingly supports the pinkwashing of the ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people, and i will not lend my name to it any longer.
Let me tell you, this breaks my heart, and i hope you’re able to hear my words as they’re intended. i care about this festival, and about so many of the amazing people involved in it, and it’s an utter shame and disgrace that this even has to be said. But i can tell you that what i care about more than a film festival is the right of the Palestinian people to their land, their freedom, their very lives – none of which this ad bolsters, and all of which are further imperiled by the likes of the very clear statement of support by and for Israeli pinkwashing which you have sent.
Though this isn’t purely a policy issue, i don’t know how you come to decisions about advertising, but i truly hope that you will collectively take a seriously hard look at the decisions you are making around who you support and who you allow to support the festival, whose money you take and to whom you give voice; and i hope that you’ll be transparent about the process by which you come to these decisions, including with donors.
On behalf of myself and the Radical Access Mapping Project, and as a queer seeking the liberation of all our communities from Turtle Island to Palestine and beyond, i implore you: change your stance on this; speak out against (and at the very least do not continue to lend unsuspecting donor support to) the ongoing and escalating Israeli assaults on the Palestinian people. If you recognize that Palestinians here and across the globe ARE queer, ARE trans, ARE LGBTTQI+, ARE this community as much as any of us, then you simply cannot claim to “illuminate queer lives” while you lend support, credibility and airtime to the active process of violently and systematically extinguishing those very lives. You, we, simply can’t.
on behalf of myself, romham padraig gallacher,
and the Radical Access Mapping Project
Here are some of the other responses to this issue:
“We at the Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG) are writing to express our concern at the decision of the Vancouver Queer Film Festival to include the advertisement from Yad b’Yad in your Festival guide. … We would like to offer an invitation to all of you at Out on Screen / VQFF. We at SFPIRG are ourselves beginning a more intensive process of learning about the situation in Palestine and we would like to invite you to join us. We would be willing to arrange learning opportunities for members of both of our organizations. This could include a workshop, film & discussion series that would explore the history of Palestine and the creation and conduct of the Israeli state.”
August 06, 2014 Sins Invalid
“…As a result of the ad, we have decided to withdraw from the program and decline to screen our film, Sins Invalid, at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. We will be screening it at an alternate location in Vancouver on Mon Aug 18th at 7pm PST. All tickets purchased for the VQFF program will be honored at our alternate event. We urge the festival to consider that the issue is not about its lack of advertising policy, but about its unwillingness to acknowledge settler colonialism and the violent occupation of Palestine.
We urge Festival goers to stand with us by asking the Vancouver Queer Film Festival to agree to refuse “pinkwashing” funding in the future, and to stand in solidarity with all queer and gender non-conforming peoples, wherever they may live.”
August 7, 2014 QuAIA Vancouver
“…We call for no less than complete boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel and for the VQFF and broader LGBTQ communities to join in international solidarity with Gaza and the fight for Palestinian liberation. Specially, we call for the Festival to meet the two-years plus outstanding demand for a BDS resolution no later than November 29th, 2014, the United Nations International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people. Members of the community and those who have supported the VQFF to date have made it clear that they are committed to increasing pressure on the Festival as needed to express their deep concern and outrage regarding this ongoing delay in adopting a BDS resolution and the profound lack of judgement demonstrated in accepting advertising funds from Yad b’Yad.
We write this with the hope that the Festival will do the right thing and with a renewed commitment to standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people and in particular at this time, with Gaza.”
August 7, 2014 Mik Turje, co-director, “Hands In The Dirt”, not pulling film but making statement against pinkwashing
August 7, 2014
Dear Drew Dennis and the Out on Screen Board of Directors,
It has been a great honour to be accepted to show my film in the Changemakers program at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. After speaking to you and reading your statement released on July 28th, I am encouraged to see a response from the festival to the public outcry around the issue that has been building since the initial screening of “Invisible Men” three years ago. I am also relieved that it was not the intent of the VQFF to send the message of solidarity with Israel that it did by printing the Yad B’Yad advert. Despite this, after much reflection I feel that that the response from the festival has been inadequate and am called to address it publicly.
Though the statement and our conversation has made it clear that the VQFF has no position on the issue, I believe that choosing neutrality in a situation of oppression is a form of complicity. I ask the festival to recall the famous ACT UP motto “Silence = Death.” Our queer history is marked by the principle that silence about oppression must be broken, and that this is a matter of life or death.
The siege on Gaza over the past three weeks has seen the death toll (majority civilian, disproportionately children) exceed eighteen hundred. Four-hundred and forty-thousand people have been displaced, nearly nine-thousand injured, and over forty percent of Gaza has been depopulated. The Israeli army has acted with impunity, targeting schools, hospitals, power plants and UN shelters, resulting in the total collapse of essential services such as sewage, electricity, and medical care. This is not a conflict between two equal parties; this is an occupation where the occupier consistently violates international law, and where civilian deaths on one side outnumber the other a thousand to one. At any time, but particularly in light of this I am lending my voice to others who are asking the Vancouver Queer Film Festival to use its voice as a well-respected organization to make a difference.
The ongoing occupation in Gaza is a queer issue for two very important reasons.
1) Whether we like it or not the project of pinkwashing has involved us. It dehumanizes Palestinians in our name, it frames Israel as a liberal democracy in our name, and it fuels islamophobia and racism in our name.
2) Queer is a political identity, and that to wear it, we make a commitment to act in solidarity with all other oppressed people. This includes those opposing occupation, displacement, and apartheid from Turtle Island to Palestine. Our queer liberation is tied to the liberation of all people.
Pinkwashing is not innocuous. It is intentional, and it causes harm. It is a tactic used by the Israeli government which uses queerness to represent Israel as a modern, liberal, democratic state concerned with human rights and to divert international attention away from the state’s violation of Palestinian human rights. The Yad B’Yad advertisement also was not innocuous. As with all pinkwashing, its function is to make people living in liberal democracies like Canada feel a sense of affinity with or investment in the Israeli state. The implication of this message is that Israel must practice apartheid, colonialism, and violence in order to preserve freedoms like gay rights.
As queers with a conscience, what is the way to move forward? The answer is simple. Palestinian civil society (including all Palestinian queer organizations) is united in their call for solidarity through the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. This includes the boycott of Israeli cultural products such as film. I understand that the festival has struggled with the difficult questions of censorship, free speech, and the power of film and media to engage with the issues constructively.
Unfortunately, the Israeli government shares our belief in the power of media, which is why they have been targeting many cultural institutions including film festivals with increased support in recent years. It is no coincidence that the advertisement ended up in the VQFF program – it is part of a larger attempt at pinkwashing the atrocities on the ground in Palestine. In response to this, the VQFF is being called to adopt a policy of cultural boycott.
I was initially pleased and relieved to hear that the festival will be donating the proceeds of the Yad B’Yad advertisement to Just Vision, a Palestinian/Israeli media organization working to end the occupation. After doing research on Just Vision’s films, I have found that these films perpetuate the oft-repeated misrepresentation of the Israel/Palestine conflict as a conflict between two warring parties, equally responsible for a “cycle of violence”. The solution, according to Just Vision, rests on the facilitation of nonviolent dialogue. Though it is important work, this constitutes the erasure of the systemic disparity of human rights, the ongoing theft of Palestinian land and lives, and the denial of any sort of meaningful Palestinian recourse within a legal framework.
Stonewall was a riot: a riot instigated by young trans women of colour who were then further marginalized from the gay rights movement for being too violent (too femme, too trans, too Black and Latino). As queers we are called to learn a difficult lesson about how the rhetoric of nonviolence can silence the most marginalized voices – those disproportionately black and brown bodies for whom rebellion is a matter of life or death. To view our history of queer struggle as nonviolent is to sugarcoat and whitewash history. There is a parallel to be made between the rejection of the queer people of colour who started our movement with fists and bottles, and the erasure of Palestinian resistance which does not fit the comfortable image of peaceful dialogue and mutual understanding.
I am encouraged to hear that the festival will be engaging with an external facilitator in the fall. Regardless of the conflicting perspectives of members of the film festival, the social justice mandate of the VQFF obligates you to speak out against injustice. As this is revisited, I ask that this lead to concrete action, including:
1) That the festival come out against Israeli apartheid and make a statement which explicitly addresses the issues at hand including a condemnation of Israeli war crimes, and a statement opposing pinkwashing
2) That the money from the Yad B’Yad advert be donated towards humanitarian aid to the victims of the ongoing massacre in Gaza
3) That a specific policy be drafted about pinkwashing, and a boycott of Brand Israel cultural products in programming, advertising, and all other aspects of the festival be adopted.
I know the Vancouver Queer Film Festival to be a forward thinking and dedicated community organization, and I have decided not to pull my film as an act of good faith that this issue will be taken seriously when it is revisited in the fall. Though the mandate of the VQFF may end at celebrating queer lives through film, your moral obligation does not.
Sincerely and with the deepest respect,
Co-director: Hands In the Dirt
UPDATE AUG 17: just heard this morning. There isn’t yet a formal update on Corals website, but on facebook it publicly says:
I just contacted Drew Dennis
to pull my film ‘We Don’t Want to Marry’ from the Vancouver Film Festival re: pinkwashing. I skyped with my collaborators from Berlin – Mascha Nehls of Entzaubert queer D.I.Y uncommercial film festival
and London filmmaker James Velo
and they both wish to pull the film as well. I received no response from my letter below”
August 13, 2014 Coral Short, contemplating pulling film “We Don’t Want to Marry”
Dear Drew Dennis and the Out on Screen Board,
As you know I have adored you for years and you have treated me extremely well as an artist. I am thankful for being treated so well as performance artists are rarely compensated fairly for our time and labour. So thank you from the bottom of my heart for this!! I write this knowing that we all are learning (myself included) and with lots of compassion and care.
After I read all the online information in Montreal I went for a run and I found myself crying. I found myself complicit in things that are happening so far away by having my NYC/ Berlin film in my hometown festival. It just goes to show that we are all interconnected everywhere.
If you accept money from Yad b’Yad for their ad connecting the state of Israel and LGBTQ communities, do we as filmmakers then all become complicit in these deaths in Palestine? The death toll from recent strikes is 1,900. As someone who has existed almost entirely in radical communities for the last 15 years, in my international art practice, I find this deeply disturbing.
By accepting this money you have put the filmmakers in a very difficult situation where their work is being celebrated under an Israeli flag, which stands in for genocide to many of us. We would not have chosen to accept this ad – there is a hum of us talking unhappily offline.
The first time I became familiar with the situation in Israel/ Palestine was through an Israeli group called Black Laundry at Queeruption Berlin in 2003. They taught me that all oppressions are connected and that we need to act in solidarity with each other and that it is possible to move forward together, fighting for not one aspect of change but for all change! Let us choose as queers to stand with Palestinians as brothers and sisters.
I see my friends from all corners of North America share links over and over about VQFF on Facebook. Is this what Vancouver queers want to be known for? We are open minded and open hearted west coasters. I find that change can be a painful process — learning to break through the shells of our old selves. Growth can also be painful but sometimes communities unfortunately need this friction in order to grow. This is a perfect time to learn to be better allies and stand in solidarity with Gaza. I think it’s a good thing that SFPIRG has suggested hosting learning workshops for volunteers/staff in this letter. We queers need to open our eyes and hearts to what is really going on in the world.
Please think these things through. I have utter faith in your good heartedness and I know that we all learn from our mistakes throughout this thing we call life.
I am considering pulling my film ‘We Don’t Want to Marry’. But I have faith that there will be resolution, learning and change that will come about from all of this. Don’t let VQFF go the way of Frameline. This letter represents my desire for a more radical human-spirited approach to funding, that lives in a place of loving kindness.
August 15, 2014 Can Candan, Director/producer pulls “My Child” from VQFF
“We have decided to pull ‘My Child’ out of the 26th Vancouver Queer Film Festival. Here’s our letter to them:
Istanbul, 14 August 2014
To: Vancouver Queer Film Festival
We have been very excited to be part of the 26th Vancouver Queer Film Festival and present our documentary film ‘My Child’ to audiences in Vancouver.
Unfortunately, we have been following the recent controversy regarding the festival administration’s position vis a vis the international efforts to put pressure on the Israeli government’s policy of violating the basic human rights of Palestinian people and their pinkwashing efforts.
We have read the following statements by Sins Invalid, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA); the Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG); The Radical Access Mapping Project; and by Mik Turje, co-director of Hands In the Dirt.
In light of the ongoing war against the people of Palestine by the Israeli government, we feel, as filmmakers and human rights activists with conscience, we have an obligation to come out publicly against the Israeli government’s policies and join forces with all those who oppose these policies by joining the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign. Since it is clear from the recent controversy surrounding the VQFF, the festival administration chooses not to take a public and vocal stand against the Israeli government’s unacceptable policies.
After careful deliberations as the team of producers of ‘My Child,’ including our discussions with LISTAG (Families of LGBTs in Istanbul) featured in our documentary film, we have decided that we cannot be part of Vancouver Queer Film Festival in good conscience. In solidarity with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign and the people and organizations whose statements are included above, we would like to add our voice of protest and withdraw our documentary film from the 26th Vancouver Queer Film Festival.
We encourage the festival organizers to take an active public role in standing against the Israeli government’s oppression of Palestinian people and their pinkwashing efforts.
“Queer, trans and intersex people of colour (QTIPOCs) and Indigenous queers/Two-Spirit have a long history of engagement with the VQFF. For 26 years of queer film festivals in Vancouver, as individuals and in our organizations, we have consistently and in good faith challenged VQFF on issues of racism and settler colonialism, among other critical accountabilities to various marginalized queer communities in this city.
We’ve lobbied VQFF for films and for dialogue that recognize the multiple lived experiences and realities of queers, trans and intersex folks on Turtle Island and abroad. We have loved, valued and also hated VQFF. Yet in 25 years, we’ve never walked away because we believe, as you do, that it is in cultural and artistic spaces that we can effectively come together to bring about social change and political transformations. In this belief, we have been your community sponsors, your donors, your audiences, your staff and your volunteers, your critics and your friends.
On August 7, 2014, VQFF broke that trust and relationship. It’s the day most of us became aware VQFF had reneged on its stated commitment at the panel on cultural boycotts in 2013, an albeit wishy washy commitment to “not taking sides”––but one which, surely even VQFF cannot deny, includes refusing to allowing our festival to be used for pinkwashing of the Israeli occupation of Palestine (what VQFF term, “the Palestinian/Israeli conflict”).
Because time is short, we have suggestions for your immediate consideration during this festival, we will not repeat specifics regarding what pinkwashing means or why publishing this ad demonstrates an utter disregard for peoples under settler colonization and occupation nor spell out the extent and depth of our political solidarity with Palestine: these important issues and statements have already been well addressed in several letters to VQFF by SFPIRG, QuAIA, and Sins Invalid. See:http://www.sfpirg.ca/news/public-letter-to-vqff-re-pinkwashing/;http://quaiavancouver.wordpress.com/2014/08/07/quaia-vancouver-statement-on-vqff-pinkwashing/; andhttp://disability-justice.tumblr.com/post/94025105614/sins-invalid-pulls-film-out-of-vancouver-queer-film.
In solidarity with those voices, we want to publicly and strongly register our disappointment and shock that VQFF has published an ad of a known pinkwashing, Israeli-Canadian organization, Yad b Yad, in the 2014 Festival Program in contravention of what VQFF promised at the panel last year. We are of course aware that VQFF ED Drew Dennis took a stab at addressing your “not intentional” support for Israel but that letter comes disappointingly short of accepting responsibilityfor the consequences. See VQFF letter here:http://www.queerfilmfestival.ca/viewEvents/A_Message_from_Drew_Dennis/94/24/286/
In the simplest of terms and in addition to what’s been written in the above cited letters, these consequences include:
a) publicity throughout the festival for Israel pinkwashing agenda by way of Yad b Yad’s ad;
b) which means having to endure seeing the half-page image of an Israeli flag juxtaposed with a rainbow flag at a time when many of the queer communities VQFF serves are emotionally stricken and horrified at the relentless and internationally condemned genocide and destruction in Gaza by Israeli forces;
c) the impact on those of us who stand against settler colonialisms, violent occupations and genocides everywhere in the world of VQFF’s failure to stand by its own stated commitment to not favouring Israel over Palestine (VQFF’s so-called “political neutrality”)
Further to the last point, this puts us in an impossible position. How can we continue to attend, sponsor, volunteer, or otherwise participate at VQFF if The Board and Staff are unwilling to acknowledge these consequences or take responsibility for your albeit unintended actions?
The harm’s been done. Explaining why is not enough.
So where do we go from here? How do we build back trust? How can we carry on engaging with VQFF with integrity? As some of your community sponsors, audiences, staff and volunteers, critics and friends, we have thought long and hard about this and here is what we came up with. Please take these points as our bottomlines of what can begin to mend what’s been broken, build back trust with us, and continue the conversation and the work between VQFF and your stated valued communities:
- We urge you to think about the roots, purpose, and relevance of VQFF to Vancouver’s queer communities. What do you stand for? Which communities are you trying to reach? Will you stand in solidarity with and alongside racialized and colonized gender fluid, gender non-conforming, sexuality non-conforming queer audiences and communities?
- Intentionally or by internal error, VQFF has provided space to an Israeli pinkwashing perspective. It is therefore reasonable to expect that if VQFF genuinely acknowledges that mistake, short of reprinting the program, you should and could easily provide counter public ad space. We suggest you do this in the form of a slide, along with the other ad-slides that run before films at the festival. We’re happy to help you with that.
- The letter Drew wrote focuses on internal procedural issues and does not acknowledge why so many of us are deeply concerned about this ad. Therefore, we suggest you ask one of us, or a representative of any other Palestinian solidarity group, to speak at VQFF’s opening film to address why so many of us are devastated by your actions and the ad.
- After the festival, we urge you to stay open and listen.Hear the voices of those of us who are committed to taking a stand against occupation and settler colonialism, both on this land and on lands abroad. We must point out that right now, given Israel’s blatant disregard for international law and human rights in Gaza, the world has changed. VQFF cannot afford, especially in our names, to stand on the wrong side of history. As with South African apartheid, Canada lags in recognizing that a worldwide BDS movement against Israel is not just imminent and inevitable, it is here! We therefore hope that Out on Screen/VQFF will, very shortly and in tandem with many of its longtime audiences and supporters, support the call for anAcademic and Cultural boycott of Israel, which is part of the larger non-violent movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS).
We look forward to your response. If VQFF fails to make any concessions to the concerns community members have expressed about the ad, some of the groups named below intend to withdraw their community sponsorship of the VQFF. We will send you notice by the start of the festival of who we are shortly. As well, members of these groups may choose to make our stand and solidarity with Palestine known in various ways throughout the festival. We give you notice of that here.
Vancouver Latin GLBT Communities and Friends
No One Is Illegal – Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territories
Global Queer Research Group, UBC
SANSAD (South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy)
Chin Bannerji, retired professor, SFU
Kathrine Fobear, UBC
Harjap Grewal, The Council of Canadians
Fatima Jaffer, UBC
Dai Kojima, UBC
Summer Pervez, filmmaker and artist
Nishant Upadhyay, York University
Harsha Walia, NOII
(More groups and individuals to be added: please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you or your organization wish to be added as endorsers)”