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Bennett Insists Suha Arraf Give Israel Back $500K after Dubbing her Film ‘Palestinian’

Asia Pacific Screen Awards - Arrivals

Israeli-Arab filmmaker Suha Arraf may be required to make restitution of more than $500, 000 to the Israeli government and other Israeli organizations. The country has already demanded the return of a $157, 000 grant from Arraf, who used the funds for her Arab language movie Villa Touma.

Israel’s Economics Minister Naftali Bennett ordered that Arraf refund the money because she had submitted the film to the Venice Film Festival as an entry from Palestine and not Israel.

Minister Bennett was infuriated at what Arraf did as the Israeli government provides funding to support its local film industry and not the Palestinian film industry.

“You cannot take state money and then spit in its face, ” Bennett said. “The director, who felt completely Israeli when requesting the grant, suddenly remembered she was ‘Palestinian’ upon putting it to use.”

“This is unacceptable, unfair behavior which, after a legal examination, did also not adhere to terms under which the grant was given, ” he added.

The Israeli Film Fund has demanded that she refund it the $330, 000 that the organization had invested in the movie and even the Israel State Lottery wants its $30, 000 grant back saying that the director violated the grant’s terms by calling her film Palestinian.

Suha Arraf was born and raised in Israel and is an Israeli citizen. Villa Touma, which she wrote and directed, is her third film. It is a black comedy about a young girl who goes to live with her three unmarried aunts in the West Bank.

The director defended her decision to call her film Palestinian, telling the New York Times, “The story is Palestinian, the actresses are Palestinian, it takes place in Palestine. It’s my basic right as a human being to present my film according to the artistic identity of the film. I believe in freedom of art, and this is my issue. The film contains not a single word of Hebrew. Yes, half my crew was Israeli. But so what?”



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