Statement on the "message to the international film community" from 1 November 2023 and its consequences

The Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen gGmbH is a subsidiary owned by the City of Oberhausen and has been supported by the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Federal Government and many others for many decades.

In October a call to attend “Solidarität mit Israel!” (Solidarity with Israel!) in Berlin on 22 October was published on the Festival’s Facebook page. The post condemned the events of 7 October and the antisemitic reactions to them. Since this post, the Festival and its director have been criticised. The text had condemned groups who held celebrations in Berlin after the terrorist attacks became known.

Concerning this criticism, we state: The intention of the post was not to stigmatise the Palestinian population in general, neither in Germany nor abroad. We regret that this impression was created. The post was a spontaneous call in which grief, empathy, horror and anger at the terror of 7 October were articulated. The Festival will continue to be a place of free thought and discussion from which no one should feel excluded because of their political views or cultural background. Antisemitic, racist and war-glorifying positions have no place here. We hope that the dialogue will continue.

In this, the Festival and its director have the full support of its owner, the City of Oberhausen, the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Federal Government and many other institutions and individuals.

The criticism of the post is mixed with calls to distance oneself from the Festival and its director. The campaign against the Festival and its director aimed to isolate the Festival culturally, politically and economically. Filmmakers who have screened films in Oberhausen, curators who work or have worked with the Festival, have been and are still being called upon to join the campaign resp. submit no films and terminate cooperation with the Festival. Some persons and organisations have already declared a boycott of the Festival. Commitments to programmes or films were withdrawn resp. it was announced that no films will be submitted.

Our position on this is as follows: If individuals or institutions do not want to cooperate with us or show films at our Festival, we have to accept it, however much we regret it. The boycott is not our decision. We are always open for constructive dialogue because we seek exchange. We continue to believe that dialogue is the only way to deal with conflict. A boycott campaign, however, is the end of dialogue. We have therefore cancelled contractual relationships in two cases because the contracting parties had joined the campaign and were unwilling to enter into a dialogue about this. For us, the boycott call has destroyed the relationship of mutual trust necessary for collaboration. 

Claims that payment has been withheld are false. Payment was made as agreed – just not beyond the end of the contract.

Oberhausen, 7 December 2023