Palestinians demand cultural boycott of ‘genocidal’ Israel at Cannes film festival

Talleen Abu Hanna, an Israeli actress, poses at the festival in Cannes on Saturday
Talleen Abu Hanna, an Israeli actress who appears in the documentary La Belle de Gaza, poses at the festival in Cannes on Saturday - Valery Hache/AFP via Getty Images

The Palestinian team at the Cannes film festival has branded Israel “genocidal”, and demanded a cultural boycott.

Despite festival bosses calling for “no polemics” at the star-studded Riviera gathering, representatives for Palestine have organised a day of anti-Israel activities.

The Palestine Film Institute has accused Israel of pursuing a “relentless genocide” and called on people to take action against the “apartheid state”.

Activists have called for a total boycott of the Israeli film industry and any organisations “complicit” with the state, and plan to hold workshops teaching filmmakers how to “disrupt” this industry.

Fears of ‘another Eurovision’

Direct calls have also been made to boycott the Israeli team in Cannes, prompting fears that the festival could descend into a “repeat of Eurovision’’, where the Israeli contestant Eden Golan was booed by some of the audience.

The Palestine Film Institute said in its overview of plans for the festival: “The months since October 2023 have underlined the great struggle we face as Palestinians to merely exist.

“Against the backdrop of the current genocide, it has never been more urgent for Palestinian filmmaking to be platformed as a space of creative resistance, exchange and dialogue.”

The PFI team has invited activists with Film Workers for Palestine to a dedicated day of events, where they will make a public call for a boycott and advise on how best to “disrupt the complicity of the film industry with the Israeli apartheid state”.

One workshop will teach filmmakers how to withdraw their labour from Israeli companies, reject invitations to Israeli film festivals, and refuse to have their films shown or distributed in Israel.

Events to end with ceasefire call

The day of anti-Israel events will be rounded off by a public call for a ceasefire and a minute’s silence.

All activities will take place at the Algerian pavilion at the Palais des Festivals, which is close to the Israeli pavilion, ringed this year by extra security.

Osnat Bukofzer, the leader of the Israeli team in Cannes, told The Telegraph: “We are here for films, culture, and open for dialogue. We hope that it will be the only action here in Cannes.”

The revelation of the Palestine team’s plans comes after Thierry Fremaux, the festival director, insisted there were to be “no polemics” at the event, which he hoped would focus on film and not outside controversies.

French authorities stepped up security to prevent the flagship festival becoming a stage for protest, and David Lisnard, the mayor of Cannes, banned demonstrations along the coastal stretch where the main events take place.

The festival itself stepped up the number of security briefings from five to 15 in preparation for the first Cannes gathering since the Oct 7 attacks on Israel, and the ensuing ground invasion of Gaza.

The Palestine Film Institute has been contacted for comment.