At Berlin festival, Israeli director blasts ‘fascist’ Netanyahu government

Israeli director Udi Aloni has sparked a storm of controversy by his comments this weekend at the Berlin International Film Festival.

On Friday night, Channel 10 broke the news that Aloni (who is the son of the late far-left politician Shulamit Aloni) said at the screening of his film “Junction 48” that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was helping “fascist” government of Israel by selling it submarines.

“Merkel doesn’t mention that and sells it submarines so it can keep on with these things,” Aloni said. According to Channel 10, the director was unaware his remarks had been caught on camera.

Aloni’s film, which won the festival’s prestigious Panorama Audience Award, focuses on the first Palestinian rapper, Tamer Nafar, a native of the mixed Jewish-Arab Israeli city of Lod. Nafar co-authored the fictionalized script with screenwriter Oren Moverman. The film was inspired by events from Nafar’s life and beat out 33 narrative films that were vying for the same prize at the festival.

Speaking about the protagonist of his film, Aloni said, “What’s truly amazing about this kid, who grew up in Lod and from the start sang about Israel being a terrorist [state], is that at the same time, he publicly opposed honor killings in Arab society.”

Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev said on Saturday that the documented remarks were “conclusive proof that artists who undermine the state, slander it and attack its legitimacy, shouldn’t be funded by taxpayers’ money.”

After the report on his remarks, Aloni published a response on his Facebook page in which he said, “The film, which stems entirely from true love and pain cannot be silence by anti-democratic forces that have taken over our country, and certainly not by sycophantic media people who take things out of context.”

Aloni also wrote that “in a functioning country, the job of the artist is to serve as opposition to the state and not a mouthpiece for propaganda. As the Pirkei Avot [tractate of the Talmud] says: ‘Love work, but hate mastery.'”

“The film promotes a life of cooperation and love and is an example of how simple it is to live together,” Aloni declared.

The director added: “My love is for the country and all its residents regardless of religion, race, gender, or ethnicity. It’s one, single, uncompromising, love.”

According to actress Samar Qupty, who co-starred in the film, it should be easy for Palestinians to identify with the movie, even though it depicts people living lives that are radically different from strict Muslim traditions.

“It’s still a revolutionary movie because it doesn’t talk about the way we Palestinians are usually represented in the world,” Qupty said.

Nafar himself said the movie would “open a stage and I think it’s very important and the movie is not here to give solutions, the movie is here to raise the right questions.”

Another Israeli entry, “Who’s Gonna Love Me Now?” by Tomer and Barak Heymann, was voted best Panorama documentary.