New Orleans Film Festival Joins the Cultural Boycott of Israel

New Orleans Palestine solidarity activists founded one film festival in New Orleans, called PATOIS ( Our festival considers ourselves part of the International BDS movement, and our festival observes the international boycott of Israeli cultural institutions. Now we have convinced another local film festival, the New Orleans Middle East Film Festival, to also observe the boycott.

Today, the Times Picayune, New Orleans’ daily newspaper, mentioned the boycott in their paper (see article below). We are excited for this boycott to get a little press, and (in the aftermath of the Toronto Film Festival’s notorious Spotlight on Tel Aviv), we are looking forward to this movement continuing to spread among film festivals.

Please help us spread the word of this boycott victory and call to action.


1) Please contact Rene, the director of the New Orleans Middle East Film Festival, at rene[at], to thank him for observing the boycott. We think he’ll be receiving lots of pressure to drop it, and it took a lot of work to get him this far.

2) Thank the writer of this article, Mike Scott at MScott[at], for mentioning the boycott, or of you have the time, also consider commenting on the article online, at the link below.

3) Use this article (and the examples of these festivals) as an example to bring to film festivals in your community, asking them to observe the boycott.

New Orleans Middle East Film Festival cranks up today

By Mike Scott, The Times-Picayune

November 12, 2009, 12:24PM

Originally, the New Orleans Middle East Film Festival was to be held every two years because of the limited number of films available from countries in the region. That was the plan, anyway.

Apparently, Middle Eastern filmmakers had other ideas.

With a wealth of films from or about the Middle East at his disposal, organizer Rene Broussard has turned the festival into an annual event. The 2009 edition — the festival’s third installment — cranks up tonight (Nov. 12) with 72 movies showing at Broussard’s Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center over 10 days.

“Over the past couple of years, there’s been a really strong output of films — quality films — from the Middle East and the Arab world,” Broussard said. “And if you look at the news events of 2009, two of the biggest stories of the year have been the siege in Gaza and the election protests and demonstrations in Iran. So it just made sense to go ahead and make it an annual event.”

This year’s lineup will include films from Afghanistan, Anatolia, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Qatar, Syria, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Several of the filmmakers will attend.

“We’ve got a really strong lineup, and one worthy of attention,” Broussard said.

Among the notable entries:

“Slingshot Hip-Hop,” an opening-night documentary about young Palestinians and their embracing hip-hop music. Screens tonight (Nov. 12) at 9:30 p.m.

“Saudi Solutions,” a documentary taking an inside look at a rare handful of career women in Saudi Arabia. (Screens Saturday, Nov. 14, at 1:30 p.m.)

“Remnants of War,” a documentary feature about the teams of workers who scour the countryside of South Lebanon for ordnance dropped during 2006’s 33-day war between Hezbollah and Israel. (Screens Sunday, Nov. 15, at 3:30 p.m.)

“Cairo Station,” the 1958 narrative feature — which was nominated for a Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival — will be screened in memory of Egyptian director Youssef Chahine, who died this year. (Screens Nov. 21 at 5:30 p.m.)

“Amreeka,” the festival’s closing-night selection, which was nominated for a Grand Jury Prize at January’s Sundance Film Festival. It’s a Canadian narrative feature about a single mother from Ramallah who moves with her teenage son to small-town Illinois in the hopes of improving their lives. (Screens at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 22.)

“Also, we really lucked out with our opening-night selection of ‘Learning From Light: the Vision of I.M. Pei,’ ” about the renowned architect’s journey to create the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar, Broussard said.

“It just had its world premiere at the Vancouver Film Festival and its U.S. premiere at the Hamptons Film Festival. We’ll be the second screening of the film in the U.S. It’s really an important documentary.”

(Click here for full New Orleans Middle East Film Festival schedule.)

New for this year, the film festival has partnered with the first Gaza International Documentary Film Festival, which is running concurrently with the local event. “We have worked up an exchange with them where we’ll be showing eight of their films in our festival, most of which are U.S. premieres,” Broussard said.

Attendees of the local festival will select one of those eight to receive an Audience Award, which will be presented live at the Gaza festival via Skype. The Arab satellite news channel Al Jazeera is expected to carry the announcement of the award-winner live, Broussard said.

One thing from years past that attendees won’t see is a strong presence from Israeli filmmakers. That’s by design, Broussard said.

“The first two years we had a very strong presence from Israel. This year, all of the films that deal with Israel are from the point of view of the Palestinians,” he said. “I was reluctant (to do that) in the first few years of the film festival, because I wasn’t doing a Palestinian film festival, I was doing a Middle East film festival — I was trying to get a very balanced point of view.

“But after the invasion (of Gaza) and Israel’s refusal to let rebuilding materials in, I decided to join the international call for a cultural boycott of Israel,” Broussard said. “I know I’m going to get heat from it, but …”

All-access festival passes are $75. Individual-screening tickets are $8 general admission, $7 for students or seniors, $6 for Zeitgeist members, and $3 for patrons. For details visit or call 504.827.5858.

Comments are closed.