Netflix criticised for ‘ideological’ refusal to show Oct 7 documentary

Nova, a 52-minute film directed by Dan Pe'er, documents the events of Hamas's ambush on the festival on Oct 7
Nova, a 52-minute film directed by Dan Pe'er, documents the events of Hamas's ambush on the festival on Oct 7

Netflix has been criticised by MPs and peers over its “ideological” refusal to air an Israeli director’s documentary on the Oct 7 attacks.

Thirteen parliamentarians have written to the streaming company after they attended a special screening of Nova, a film by Dan Pe’er, which chronicles the Hamas ambush of a rave party.

Of the 1,200 victims of the Oct 7 massacre, 364 were murdered at the Supernova music festival in Israel’s Negev Desert, while a further 40 people were taken hostage.

The group of politicians is demanding answers after the film was rejected by Netflix’s commissioning team, which reportedly stated that it was “too political”.

A letter addressed to Ben King, Netflix’s senior director of public policy, co-ordinated by Tom Hunt, the Conservative MP for Ipswich, said the screening of Nova in the Houses of Parliament was “deeply moving” and “crucial viewing”.

Other signatories to the letter included former cabinet ministers Lord Pickles and Sir Michael Ellis, as well as Baroness Altmann, a former pensions minister, and Miriam Cates, the co-chairman of the New Conservatives group.

‘Crucial viewing’

The letter reads: “I am seeking to understand Netflix’s decision to reject [the film]. The documentary about an attack on young people enjoying themselves at a music festival is something that viewers across the world, from all backgrounds, would be able to relate to.

“I strongly believe that this film is crucial viewing. This is why I was deeply troubled when I heard that Netflix, one of the world’s premier streaming services, rejected it. Netflix reportedly stated that their justification was because the film in question was too political.”

An Israeli border police officer touches a picture of her friend who died during the October 7 attack by Hamas gunmen from Gaza at the site of the Nova festival
An Israeli border police officer touches a picture of a friend who died during the attack by Hamas gunmen at the site of the Supernova festival - REUTERS

The group noted there was a “complete absence” of commentary or background music to influence audience reactions and that adding the film to the streaming service would not represent Netflix taking a political stance on the Israeli-Hamas conflict.

“Netflix is celebrated for its commissioning and screening of documentaries on all manner of issues and streams a number of powerful documentaries about Palestinians,” they added.

“In this context, the decision not to screen Nova risks appearing political or ideological in nature.”

The documentaries about Palestine that are referred to in the letter can be found on Netflix in a bespoke category labelled “Palestinian stories”.

They include the film Born in Gaza, a documentary that “examines how violence has transformed the lives of 10 Palestinian children”, and Samouni Road, which includes live action footage of a“tragedy that struck a Palestinian family of farmers” in the 2014 Gaza war.

A World Not Ours, released in 2012, provides an “intimate portrait” of three generations of exiled Palestinians living in a refugee camp in Lebanon.

The letter concluded: “Netflix proudly aims that its content ‘makes us see new perspectives and brings us closer to each other’. I would be grateful if you could please explain to me how your decision about Nova upholds or advances these important values.”

Palestinians take control of an Israeli tank after crossing the border fence with Israel from Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip
The documentaries about Palestinians that are referred to in the letter can be found on Netflix in a bespoke category - UPI / Alamy Live News

A representative of Yes Studios, which is responsible for distributing the film, said it had a “worldwide sales strategy” for Nova and urged streaming sites to “try and get the film viewed by as many viewers as possible around the globe”.

Sources at the company pointed to the success of the Israeli dramas Hit and Run, and Fauda, both of which were globally successful, as well the comedy Bros, while pointing to its work alongside high-profile Israeli actors and directors.

They added the job of its commissioning team was to choose shows that were right for Netflix audiences and programmes were either picked up or rejected for a number of reasons.

A Netflix source also rejected a claim made in the letter that the broadcast giant risked advancing the “erosion and removal of Israel and Israeli voices from cultural spaces” as “patently untrue”.

They also said the company would be writing in response to the MPs and peers in due course, and noted the company had more than 100 Israeli titles, adding that it only received the letter dated April 18 on Friday and would be responding directly to the MP.