The Israeli film and TV industry has penned an open letter urging the international community to overcome “polarization” and rally “in the name of humanity” as more than 200 civilians, including infants, children, women and men from different nationalities, are still being held as hostages by Hamas in the Gaza strip.
“Time is of the essence; international pressure is crucial and your support is critical,” said the letter. It has been spearheaded by over 2,000 Israeli figures, including Noa Regev, the Israel Film Fund CEO and artistic director, as well as filmmakers including Ari Folman, Hagai Levi, Jasmine Kainy, Eliran Peled, Joseph Cedar (“Footnote”).
Speaking to Variety, Cedar said that while he’s received support and love from his close colleagues, he feels “there has never been a closer link between antisemitism and anti-Zionism than what we are seeing now in the pro-Hamas demonstrations in Europe and the U.S.” Cedar argues “they are in fact one and the same. It is both genuinely terrifying and also a visceral call for action.”
These renowned Israeli filmmakers have also been the driving forces behind an online project 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.
Through the initiative, called, families of hostages have shared heartbreaking testimonies with the rest of the world.
Peled said dozens of families have already told their stories and more are coming forward. “There are about 75 to 80 families in total and we’ve reached out to all of them,” said Peled. More than 50 testimonies have been collected, but some of them were not uploaded on the service because relatives found out their loved ones had died, he said.
“It was honestly soul crushing. When you’ve met the family, you get hope, you relate to them. It’s part of the tragedy that we’ve all been living here for the past two and a half weeks,” said Peled.
Testimonials have been edited into short clips and sent out to traditional media, like Kan 11, in Israel. They’ve also been subtitled, sent to European broadcasters which are part of the EBU (European Broadcasting Union) and trimmed into short clips for social media.
Besides a large post-production base, the volunteers opened a translation base in order to release the testimonies with subtitles in different languages. “Once we got everything in place, we opened up a website where we explain how to share the content and how to download it,” said Peled.
“We got everyone on board, from the biggest filmmakers to the one-year student at Sam Spiegel school who found himself shooting and translating videos,” he said. “The entire industry really understands the importance of it and everyone has been volunteering.”
Ayelet Menahemi, the director of Israel’s Oscar entry “Seven Blessings” whose theatrical run was cut short due in the aftermath of the Hamas attack, said that “when faced with atrocities, we must rekindle the restorative power of art and storytelling to reclaim our humanity.”
So far, only four hostages have been released: two elderly Israeli women, as well as an Israeli American mother and daughter. Both U.S. President Joe Biden and France President Emmanuel Macron have traveled to Israel with the primary mission of saving hostages.
But despite the support of French and U.S. leaders, there’s been growing international pressures calling for a cease-fire while Israel is preparing for a ground offensive in the Gaza strip to wipe out Hamas. Just over last weekend, thousands of people demonstrated across Europe to protest Israel’s bombing of Gaza and support Palestinians. But Israeli officials, backed by the U.S. and French officials, have argued that a cease-fire would only benefit Hamas and have said that “civilian casualties were all but inevitable as Israel tries to vanquish Hamas in Gaza,” according to the
Regev, who’s behind the Israel Film Fund which finances the bulk of Israeli movies, said “the deluge of horrifying war images to which we are all exposed cannot capture the magnitude of the tragedy.”
“One of the memorable moments of this week, and perhaps in retrospect of this entire menacing war,” Regev said, “was that of Yocheved Lifshitz, an 85-year-old woman who endured unimaginable hardships.” Lifshitz and her husband were kidnapped by Hamas from their home on Oct. 7, but upon her release after 17 days in captivity, “she chose to extend her hand as a gesture of peace in the face of evil and said ‘Shalom,’” said Regev.
Read the full letter:
To our dearest friends in the international film and television community,
We are reaching out to you, asking for your help at this terrible time, to rally with us in the name of humanity, to make the highest efforts to bring about the release of over 200 Israeli civilians, held as hostages by the Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Among those who have been abducted are babies, children and orphans. Grandparents, holocaust survivors, people who are sick and in urgent need of medical care and medication. It is a living nightmare for them, their families and our community.
We have come together in an attempt to give a voice to their plight and to the anguish of their families- by doing what we know – and that is to tell their stories.
Led by filmmakers Ari Folman, Hagai Levi, Jasmine Kainy, Eliran Peled, Joseph Cedar, and a dedicated crew, we have tried to give a name, a voice and an identity to those currently in captivity.
We urgently need your help to bring these stories out to the world and pressure governments, politicians and leaders from all sides – to safely bring these hostages home.
We have collated these films on a– please watch, share and use your voice to show there is humanity left in all of us. Time is of the essence; international pressure is crucial and your support is critical.
Thank you, your friends from the Israeli film and TV community