Leading European artists, including Maria Choustova (“Donbass”), Sergei Loznitsa (“Donbass”), Pawel Lozinski (“Film balkonowy”) and Radu Jude (“Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn”), have taken a stand to support the Israeli film community as it seeks to rally voices and help free over 220 hostages in Gaza.
These names penned a heartfelt letter addressing the resurgence of antisemitism across Europe and the significant part that European artists must play in raising the alarm. The letter will be sent to the European Film Academy with a request to circulate it among its 3,000 members ahead of the European Film Awards ceremony on Dec. 9.
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In Israel, prominent filmmakers such as Ari Folman, Hagai Levi, Jasmine Kainy, Eliran Peled and Joseph Cedar (“Footnote”) have spearheaded an online campaign called Bring Them Home Now, documenting the stories of relatives whose loved ones, including children and elderly people, were abducted during the Hamas terror attack on Oct. 7, in which 1,400 people were killed. So far, only five hostages of Hamas have been liberated.
Choustova said she and her fellow signatories feel that the response of the international film community has been insufficient. “We feel it is very important to show our solidarity with Ari and other Israeli colleagues in their campaign to release the hostages and to document the tragedy,” she said.
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
BRING THEM HOME!
In support of Ari Folman’s and Eliran Peled’s documentary project
“Auschwitz is outside of us, but it is all around us, in the air. The plague has died away, but the infection still lingers and it would be foolish to deny it. Rejection of human solidarity, obtuse and cynical indifference to the suffering of others, abdication of the intellect and of moral sense to the principle of authority, and above all, at the root of everything, a sweeping tide of cowardice, a colossal cowardice which masks itself as warring virtue, love of country and faith in an idea.” – writes Primo Levi.
Ever since the WWII ended in 1945, for the past 80 years, we, the Europeans, have been trying to “disinfect” ourselves and our countries from the virus of inhumanity. European artists played a crucial role in constructing a new, revised image of Europe – a place without war, a place where a human’s right to a dignified life is paramount, but not only that – a human’s right to freedom and self-expression is just as sacred, as their right to peaceful life itself. We were cherishing the dream of a safe and borderless homeland, where the highest achievements of human civilization are celebrated; where future generations can live in peace and prosperity, free from the traumas and demons of the bloody conflicts, which tormented our continent throughout millennia.
Books and symphonies were written, canvases painted, plays, operas and ballets staged and films directed, delivering a message of love and compassion, of the importance of transcending the boundaries of tribal, ideological or social nature – for the sake of defeating human Evil. We thought we could learn from the past tragedies, we thought we could teach our children how to be Good, we thought we could protect them from Evil…
“Never again! ”- was our slogan. Never again – the Somme, Nanking, Guernica, Stalingrad, Babi Yar, Treblinka, Hiroshima, Dresden, Cambodia, Sabra and Shatila – we shall put an end to Human Evil! Our humanity is enlightened and powerful enough to defeat it. The dawn of the new century was bringing with it new hopes and the “end of history” of wars and conflict seemed to be approaching rapidly. We were almost certain that our European continent had developed sufficient immunity to become a “plague-free” oasis forever. We were proud of our achievements in defeating Evil at our doorstep, while diligently covering, recording, documenting and depicting the tragedies in faraway lands – Vietnam, Korea, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Rwanda…
And then, in July 1995, came Srebrenica. 8000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys massacred by the Bosnian Serb soldiers in full view of the Dutch UN Protection Force. And then, in December 1999, began the battle of Grozny: an estimated 8000 civilians, Chechens and other nationalities, killed over a period of 40 days by the Russian Army, as the international community turned away from this “domestic Russian problem”.
And then, on September 9, 2001, two planes, hijacked by Muslim terrorists, crashed into the Twin Towers in New York killing approximately 3000 people, and this time the entire world saw the human Evil unfolding in front of their eyes on their high-definition TV screens. It 1 was no longer possible to pretend that the human condition had progressed one inch from the times when Voltaire’s optimistic hero Candide had the following conversation with his good friend Martin:
“Do you believe,” said Candide, “that men have always massacred each other as they do to- day, that they have always been liars, cheats, traitors, ingrates, brigands, idiots, thieves, scoundrels, gluttons, drunkards, misers, envious, ambitious, bloody-minded, calumniators, debauchees, fanatics, hypocrites, and fools?”
“Do you believe,” said Martin, “that hawks have always eaten pigeons when they have found them?”
“Yes, without doubt,” said Candide. Then came Aleppo. Then came Bucha. Humanity failed miserably to defend itself against the plague of self-destruction. Perhaps, an individual’s right to speak out. An Artist’s right to speak. A voice.
“Well, then,” said Martin, “if hawks have always had the same character why should you imagine that men may have changed theirs?”
The “war on terror” was declared promptly after 9/11. Another war, in which the forces of Good were supposed to defeat the forces of Evil, but in fact generated even more fear, provoked even more terror and disseminated even more Evil.
Then came Aleppo. Then came Bucha.
Humanity failed miserably to defend itself against the plague of self-destruction.
Artists failed spectacularly to sow the seeds of compassion, to nurture fragile blooms of culture and the fruit of ethical awareness never had a chance to ripen.
It seems that we are back in the Dark Age. What has become of our dream of humanity? What has become of our stride for a free and dignified life in an enlightened and peaceful Europe? What is there left?
Perhaps, an individual’s right to speak out. An Artist’s right to speak. A voice.
We can still aspire to speak with each other and with the world around us. This is the only force we are left with. A weapon even. A weapon against Evil. Speaking on behalf of the victims, saying their names aloud – for everyone to hear. Speaking the truth.
On October 7 this year, 240 civilians were abducted by Hamas terrorists and are now being held in the Gaza strip. Among them are babies, children, orphans, grandparents, Holocaust survivors and people with severe medical conditions in need of urgent care.
Our fellow filmmakers from Israel have recorded the statements of the relatives of the hostages and now each and every one of us can hear their stories and see their faces:
We believe that it is our duty – for the sake of humanity and the future of our own children – to speak up and to add our voices to the appeal to release these innocent hostages.
BRING THEM HOME!
If we remain silent now, we, yet again, admit our failure. If we remain silent, we fail Humanity. We fail Creation itself. After all, as Voltaire points out so poignantly:
“…mankind have a little corrupted nature, for they were not born wolves, and they have become wolves; God has given them neither cannon of four-and-twenty pounders, nor bayonets; and yet they have made cannon and bayonets to destroy one another.”
— Maria Choustova (film producer), Sergei Loznitsa (film director), Pawel Lozinski (film director), Mikolaj Grynberg (writer, film director), Thierry Garrel (film producer), Malgorzata Szczesniak (stage and costume designer), Krzysztof Warlikowski (theatre and opera director), Gidon Kremer (musician), Andrzej Seweryn (actor, director), Radu Jude (film director)
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