The 27th Arab Film Festival was slated to kick off November 10 at the Castro Theatre, but as the death toll in Gaza has passed 5,000, organizers have announced they don’t feel this is the time for a film festival.
According to a Monday announcement from the United Nations, the death toll in Gaza has surpassed 5,000 victims, with likely no ceasefire coming anytime soon. (That same report adds that roughly 1,400 Isrealis have been killed, plus another 212 currently taken hostage.) This has of course reverberated in the Bay Area, with protests, counter-protests, and student walkouts.
Now the conflict in Gaza has another Bay Area ripple effect, as the organizers of the 27th Arab Film Festival announced on social media that they’re postponing this year’s film festival, which was scheduled to open at the Castro Theatre November 10, and would have run through November 19 at other Bay Area venues.
“In light of current events and the speed at which catastrophes are unfolding, we feel the need to be present and hold space for each other in a different way,” Serge Bakalian, executive director of the Arab Film and Media Institute that’s organized the festival since 1996, said in a Friday Facebook post. “Some of us are mourning, some are angry, some are experiencing anxiety or shock. The Arab Film Festival has always been an annual celebration of Arab cinema and Arab storytellers, unfortunately this does not feel like a moment of celebration.”
Bakalian insisted “the 27th Arab Film Festival has not been canceled,” and that the festival would be rescheduled to a later date. The announcement also promises full reimbursement for tickets already purchased, and free online screenings to be scheduled.
The opening night screening was going to be the Toronto Film Festival hit Hajjan at the Castro, a screening still listed on the Castro Theatre website. Schedules for previous years’ Arab Film Festival screenings show screenings at the Roxie and the New Parkway. But the Roxie Theater calendar shows no screenings related to this festival during November 10-19, and the New Parkway calendar shows pretty much just The Marvels and trivia nights during that period.
It’s unclear whether either of those theaters were scheduled to be venues, as the festival’s schedule has been scrubbed from the website.
For now, at least, Arab Film and Media Institute has suggested “a list of eight films (that) will provide information and context on the situation currently unfolding in Palestine,” films that are commonly available on U.S. streaming platforms.
Image: ‘Hajjan’ via Film Constellation