I noticed two new tweets in the last little while that made me start thinking about festival sponsorship and its ramifications. Firstly, the tweets, both from @TaliShapiro:
Communiqué from #Cineffable [bottom left] http://bit.ly/nVIzUu #French festival accepts #Israeli grant, but takes down embassy logos.
#QueerLisboa drops #Israeli sponsorship following #boycott campaign http://bit.ly/nDrSQk #BDS
Sponsorship is hard to come by; one could argue that it can be harder for queer film festivals to snag corporate money than other cultural events. Because of this, over the years, many festivals have managed to build relationships with Embassies and Consulates and cultural bodies to receive financial or in-kind support. The Goethe Institute is very often ‘a sure bet’ to help festivals bring German filmmakers to festivals as guests, for example.
Compared to this, an Israeli government grant can be super-controversial, not only at the International Film Festival level (cf 2010 at TIFF) but also at the QFF level. The community — the festivalgoers that support the festival — might have very strong opinions about what they see as an implicit acceptance of the political situation in Israel.
Panteras Rosa, Portugal’s queer rights group, demonstrated in 2010 against Israeli financial support at the Queer Lisboa’s opening night. This year, they claimed ‘victory’ — that their pressure resulted in the festival ‘dropping the support’. (their statement)
However, when I asked the festival for their side of the story I got a different version of events:
Queer Lisboa has taken no official position regarding the BDS call for boycott, so the statements given by Panteras Rosa are untrue. These statements are regrettable since they speak in name of the Festival, having never asked the Festival for an official statement on the fact that this year we do not have a sponsorship from the Israeli Embassy. Again, we state that the Festival will not take a political position on this matter.
It can cost a lot of money to run a film festival, and some things just can’t be done for free — shipping, venue hire, film rental, etc. And ticket sales are great, but it takes more than that to balance the books. Government funding is shrinking, and sponsorship that doesn’t have (unwanted) strings attached and is from ‘ethically correct’ sources is a small pot indeed.
So what’s a festival to do? Of course there’s no easy answer. But I think at the very least a festival should be allowed to decide internally what their position is and whether they want to make that public, instead of being hijacked for someone else’s cause.