Is Melbourne Queer Film Festival pinkwashing? Let’s discuss the boycott.

If you’re into the Melbourne film festival scene, you may have seen recently that Melbourne Queer Film Festival released a media statement in response to a boycott. The festival released the statement this month called “MEDIA STATEMENT: RESPONSE TO MQFF SCREENING ISRAELI FILM“.

MQFF is an international LGBTIAQ+ film festival that began in 1991. In 1996, a touring program went to 5 interstate capitals including Hobart where homosexual activity was still a crime. MQFF has had a 30-year protest history in standing for the rights of LGBTIAQ+ people across the country. Now in the face of a boycott for creating an unsafe program for Queer Palestinian people, MQFF is being held accountable for moving away from its roots.

So let’s discuss the facts, and share the discourse leading to the boycott of MQFF leading to this film to create a space where all of the facts are presented.

This infographic posted by @hellohourani on Instagram sparked the initial discourse to say no to ‘pinkwashing’ within MQFF. Pinkwashing is a term used to describe the action of using LGBTIAQ+ issues in positive ways in order to distract attention from negative actions by an organization, country, or government. Pinkwashing describes a scope of marketing and political tactics aimed at promoting products, countries, people, or entities through an appeal to pride, in order to appear progressive and modern.

In the post, the author states that MQFF’s program discludes films from Africa and the Arabic-speaking world, but includes two films from Israeli directors Eyton Fox and Adam Kalderon.

From critic reviews to audience responses, Fox’s filmography has been regularly criticized for pink-washing the Israeli apartheid, particularly in scriptwriting Israel as a safe country for the LGBTIAQ+ community, but writing Palestinian peoples as backward and homophobic. In this year’s programs, MQFF has included two films that paint Israel as a safe and progressive society for Queer people when this is factually not the case.

‘The Swimmer’, directed by Adam Kalderon is a feature film that MQFF plans to distribute through Cinema Nova, ACMI, and rural independent cinemas. The synopsis of the film, states ‘Erez, a rising star in the Israeli swimming scene arrives at a godforsaken training camp held in a boarding school where the winning athlete gets a coveted ticket to the Olympics’.

Jasbir Puar, associate professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, cite the comparison of gay rights in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territories as an example of pinkwashing. Within the programmed films of the festival, Fox’s works depict a negative view of Palestinian people, therefore creating a space that is not safe for Queer Palestinians planning to attend the festival.

As of yesterday, Mallee Pride has canceled the screenings of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival in Mildura.

As of Thursday 18th of November, today, MQFF has agreed to meet with leaders of the boycott campaign to discuss a cultural boycott policy. The future of the program is unclear until tomorrow.

11:48 18/11/2021 – MQFF, after releasing their statement yesterday, also cancelled the meeting with the leaders of the boycott campaign.

Written by Catalyst Editor, Jasper Riley
Cover Image was taken by Taylor Friehl

Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

Sign up for Catalyst Magazine

Get the latest on what's happening
* = required field