Filmmakers Lantos, Jewison, Reitman, Cronenberg speak out on TIFF protest

TORONTO - A brewing controversy over a Toronto film festival program that puts the spotlight on Tel Aviv has drawn heated words from a number of stars.

TORONTO - A brewing controversy over a Toronto film festival program that puts the spotlight on Tel Aviv has drawn heated words from a number of stars.

They include Minnie Driver and Saul Rubinek, producer Robert Lantos, and directors David Cronenberg, Norman Jewison, and Ivan Reitman.

The spat escalated as the Toronto International Film Festival kicked off Thursday with stars including Penelope Cruz, George Clooney, Julianne Moore, Oprah Winfrey and Chris Rock set to walk the red carpet.

Amid the glitz, filmmakers including Lantos, Cronenberg, Jewison, Reitman and actors Driver and Rubinek spoke out in a news release criticizing those angered by the festival's inaugural City to City program.

In a statement, Cronenberg says "attempts to stop TIFF's City to City spotlight on Tel Aviv amount to political censorship," while Jewison implores protesters to "keep political hatred out of the artistic community."

A group of Toronto-based filmmakers and activists accuse the spotlight of being part of "the Israeli propaganda machine," and say they're disappointed it excludes Palestinian voices.

But they also deny calling for a boycott and insist they support the individual filmmakers taking part in the program.

They say that more than 1,000 people have signed a protest letter outlining their concerns - including activist and author Naomi Klein, musician David Byrne, filmmaker Ken Loach and actress Jane Fonda.

Organizers say they plan to hold a news conference and public event on Monday to explain their position.

In Thursday's statement, Lantos dug into the protesters' accusations.

"Their brand of political censorship is at odds with the most cherished values of Canadian society: freedom of expression and freedom of choice," Lantos said.

"Bigotry like theirs has no place at the Toronto International Film Festival."

 
 
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