update deskU.S. News

Israeli film back on outside Philadelphia after court issues restraining order

“This attempt to censor the arts and culture of Israel was not successful,” wrote the Israeli Film Festival in a statement.

Entrance to the Bryn Mawr Film Institute outside Philadelphia, April 9, 2024. Photo by Carin M. Smilk.
Entrance to the Bryn Mawr Film Institute outside Philadelphia, April 9, 2024. Photo by Carin M. Smilk.

In a turnaround of events, an Israeli Film Festival screening on Tuesday night that was previously announced as canceled is now back on.

“The Child Within Me,” a 90-minute documentary about Israeli musician Yehuda Poliker, will be shown as scheduled at 7 p.m. at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute as part of the 2024 season of the Israeli Film Festival of Philadelphia (IFF).

“This attempt to censor the arts and culture of Israel was not successful,” wrote the IFF in a statement.

The development came about as a result of a Temporary Restraining Order by Judge Richard P. Haaz of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas outside of Philadelphia.

Bryn Mawr Film Institute
A listing outside the Bryn Mawr Film Institute showing a screening by the Israeli Film Festival of Philadelphia, April 9, 2024. Photo by Carin M. Smilk.

It is called “extraordinary relief,” as it is rarely granted, said Lori Lowenthal Marcus, legal director of the Deborah Project, who filed the complaint on Tuesday morning with her husband, attorney Jerome M. Marcus.

She noted the film is nonpolitical in nature and that the BMFI is simply providing the space, not sanctioning the content. In fact, that was written into the contract between BMFI and IFF that would have been breached had the movie not been shown.

Pressure, she said, was coming from the chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine at nearby Bryn Mawr and Haverford colleges. The BMFI acknowledged being concerned about both anti-Israel protesters and counter-protesters.

Lowenthal Marcus said their goal was not just to cancel the one film but the seven-day festival entirely, which takes place from April 6 to April 14.

BMFI has been a venue for IFF for the past 18 years, and members in the community have said they want it to stay that way. Scott Zelov, Lower Merion Township commissioner, stated that since the announcement, “I have heard from many in our community who are angry and upset by the decision to cancel.”

As for Lowenthal Marcus, she said it’s a matter of “Jews standing up for Jews. Others want to shut us down and shut us up. But we’re not going to weakly walk away.”

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