Sweden’s Stockholm International Film Festival has denied reports that it disinvited U.S.-Israeli filmmaker and actress Aleeza Chanowitz as an in-person guest at its ongoing edition, running from November 8 to 19.
Chanowitz was officially invited to the festival earlier this fall with her TV show Chanshi, which screens as a special presentation on Thursday (November 16).
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She and the show’s broadcaster Hot released statements over the weekend saying the invite appeared to have been rescinded in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war, following an exchange of emails in which the hospitality department cited a number of reasons why it was better if she did not come.
The screening was always set to go ahead and Chanowitz and Hot did not suggest it had been cancelled in any of their communications but rumors started flying that the festival had also dropped the show from its program.
“There has been a misunderstanding regarding the invitation for the creators to attend the festival in person, regarding travel,” the Stockholm Film Festival said in a statement.
“We have been planning for a visit for a long time, but when the conflict occurred, we suggested a digital Q&A due to safety, thus delaying the flight booking. We believe that this is where misunderstandings have arisen.”
The festival said information had spread that the show’s screening had been cancelled as well as around Chanowitz’s attendance “due to political viewpoints”.
“This is not correct at all,” it said. “Stockholm International Film Festival always stands behind its films and filmmakers and would never refuse a participating director’s visit, nor cancel the screening of their work for political reasons. We are incredibly sorry about this bad communication that has caused pain for the team and for the wider Jewish community.”
Chanowitz and Hot reported that in one of the emails, the hospitality department had said it “had to take a stand”. It was not clear what was meant by “take a stand”.
The festival offered clarification on this.
“The wording ‘had to take a stand’ – is used out of context and poor English. What the colleague was hinting at in the correspondence was the need for a decision—whether it be related to travel or perhaps opting for a digital Q&A.”
The festival has since sent two letters of apology to Chanowitz and reiterated how it would love for her to attend the festival.
Chanowitz told Deadline ahead of the Stockholm statement that it was unlikely she would make the trip.
In an official statement issued after the festival’s first apology to her his morning, Chanowitz said: “The festival’s excuse as to why they don’t want me to attend has changed three times, which makes me feel that they aren’t being honest with me. I don’t think I’ll be going because I don’t feel very welcome anymore. I also wanted to buy a nice sweater — I’ll buy one in Israel instead and support our economy.”
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