Langara found itself tangled in a sensitive debate last week when it was criticized for supporting the social-justice themed Just Film Festival.
Jewish Students’ Association spokesman Ben Edelstein sent a letter to campus administration last week outlining his concerns. Edelstein said Langara shouldn’t have its logo or name attached to the event because the festival is biased and only features films sympathetic to Palestinian solidarity.
“Langara is ‘the college of higher learning,’ but promoting a festival with a biased leaning is far from higher learning,” said Edelstein in an interview.
The festival’s Palestine and Israel program features four films, three of which Edelstein and other Jewish community members interpreted as biased against Israel after they saw the trailers.
Langara firm on decision
The continuing studies department has sponsored the festival for nine years and is standing by its role as an official sponsor. Daniel Thorpe is Dean of Continuing Studies at Langara.
“The key for us is that the discussion be free, open, that non-violent discourse be the aim. This film festival has a long history of meeting that aim,” he said.
Thorpe said the festival fosters a debate that he considers to be “well within the remit of an academic institution.”
Festival coordinator Erin Mullan said the festival has featured similar films previously, but has never faced this level of criticism.
“Documentaries have a point of view, they often take unpopular positions,” she said. “They put people from the margins into the centre stage and give voice to perspectives that aren’t always heard.”
People and olives
Chelsea Bay co-produced The People and the Olive, a film about long-distance runners who plant olive trees to help fair trade olive oil producers in Palestine. “It’s about people, it’s about olives, about doing good. It’s not about us versus them, or they’re horrible, or pointing fingers,” she said. “We like to very much be for something, not against something. But inevitably you’re going to be a little bit biased,” said co-producer Chelsea Bay.
Edelstein doesn’t want to discourage attendance at the festival, but wishes that organizers had reached out to the Jewish Film Festival for films that would provide a different perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I think that the sharing of information is very important whether I personally agree with it or not . . . if you thought that what you saw raised a lot of questions then you should definitely continue asking those questions and follow up with things that are also going to continue dialogue, like the Jewish Film Festival,” said Edelstein.
Reported by Ash Kelly