2010 Platinum Bear for Free Speech
Filmmaker and Actor, Mohammad Bakri
Presented by the official friends of the 60th Berlinale
This past month, the State of Israel has attempted to silence Mohammad Bakri, one of our cinema’s greatest actors and documentary filmmakers, an essential figure of both Israeli and Palestinian cinema. In protest, a group of past Berlinale award winners, participants, and comrades have nominated Mr. Bakri for the 1st Annual 2010 Free Speech Bear Award. On February 19th, a screening of Mr. Bakri’s new film, Zohara,will be followed by a presentation of the award to Mr. Bakri –and a toast to free speech.
Seven years ago, after the invasion of the Israeli army into the refugee camp in Jenin, West Bank, Mohammad Bakri shot his film, Jenin Jenin. He was sued for defamation in Israeli court by several soldiers who were part of the invasion. He was censored by the Israeli censorship board for two years and, during the last seven years, has spent a great deal of time and money defending himself and the film. After Bakri won the legal suits, the soldiers decided to take the case to the Supreme Court. Recently, the State of Israel,in an unprecedented act, has decided to join the soldiers in their civil suit against Bakri.
In the eyes of the Israeli government, Mr. Bakri’s sin is his daring tobe both a member of the Palestinian people and a peace activist critical of Israel’s brutal occupation. His film Jenin Jenin, a passionate documentary about Israel’s military actions in Jenin, is only oneof many sources of evidence that Israel committed war crimes there in 2002. Detailed reports on this issue have been published by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and Israeli soldiers who served in Jenin have publicly boasted of committing acts which amount to war crimes.
This McCarthyite attempt to silence Mr. Bakri takes place against a backdrop of an urgent humanitarian crisis:the ongoing siege and imprisonment of 1.5 million human beings in a small enclave called Gaza. As long as Israel refuses to investigate its own crimes we can only salute a brave man like Mohammad Bakri who took his camera and tried to reveal the truth of what happened. And indeed, he revealed some terrible truths, but mostly he captured the trauma of witnesses and victims-a trauma that left Mr. Bakri’s soul wounded forever.
In the face of this new attempt to silence, criminalize and bankrupt Mr. Bakri, and in protest against the ongoing brutality of the occupation, we have come together to spontaneously nominate Mohammad Bakri as our 2010 Filmmaker of Free Speech, and pay due respect to his art and to Palestinian filmmaking. By this act, we are saying No! to cynical attempts by governments to silence great artists through dubious legal means… And saying Yes! to dialogue, free speech, and a lasting peace.
The spectre of Jean Genet
A Prisoner of Love
Hany Abu-Assad, Paradise Now, Berlinale Competition 2005, Golden Globe 2006
Udi Aloni*, Forgiveness, Berlinale Panorama 2006, Woodstock Audience Award 2006
Saleh Bakri (actor), The Time That Remains, Cannes 2009
Simone Bitton, Rachel, Berlinale Forum 2009
Scandar Copti, Ajami, Oscar nominee, 2010
Elle Flanders*, Zero Degrees of Separation, Berlinale Forum, 2006
John Greyson*, Fig Trees, Berlinale Teddy Award 2009
Annemarie Jacir, Salt of The Sea, Cannes 2008
Sarah Kamens, Kashmir Journey to Freedom, Berlinale Panorama Opening Doc-night, 2009
Eran Kolirin, The Band’s Visit, Cannes Prize un certain regard 2007
Guy Maddin, My Winnipeg, TIFF best Candian film 2008
Juliano Merr-Khamis, Arna’s Children, Best Documentary, TriBeCa Film Festival 2006
Oren Moverman, The Messenger, Berlinale Silver Bear 2009, Oscar nominee 2010
Eyal Sivan, The Specialist, Berlinale Official Selection special 1999, The Grimme Award 1999
Kobi Snitz (Protagonist), Budrus, Panorama 2010
Yousef Sweid (actor), The Bubble, Berlinale Panorama 2007
Yael Hersonski, A Film Unfinished, Berlinale Panorama 2010, Sundance Festival, World Cinema Documentary Editing Award 2010
The Yes Men*, The Yes Men Fix The World, Berlinale Panorama, Audience Award 2009
Mohammad Bakri, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and one of the country’s most prominent actors and directors, has been fighting for his democratic right to free expression since 2002 when he made the world-famous film Jenin Jenin. Shortly after the Israeli military attacked a refugee camp in Jenin, banning reporters and human rights observers, Bakri snuck in and interviewed survivors.
The government of Israel censored his film for 2 years, and in a remarkable move, recently joined a group of Israeli soldiers in an ongoing lawsuit against him for defamation on the grounds that some of the claims made by individuals in the film were not substantiated.
This ongoing harassment prompted a group of prominent filmmakers including The Yes Men and Ajami co-director Scandar Copti to call for the nomination of Bakri for a prize they are calling the first Free Speech Bear Award. These filmmakers will give Bakri the award in just a few days on February 19 at the 2010 Berlin International Film Festival to call attention to his fight for free expression.
They’ve asked for your support! Please add your name now to the petition supporting the nomination of Bakri. Below is the full text of the nomination letter.
Jewish Voice for Peace