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Frankfurt cinema cancels event for Golda Meir film: “Serious safety concerns” |

There is trouble in Frankfurt surrounding the film “Golda” about Israel’s first female prime minister: first an interview with contemporary witnesses at the preview was canceled, then the entire preview. The organizers denounce an “outrageous denigration”.

The film has blockbuster potential: based on a true story, the main character is a powerful personality, and the leading role is a Hollywood star. “Golda – Israel’s Iron Lady” is a film about Golda Meir, the first female prime minister of Israel, played by Oscar winner Helen Mirren.

A cinema would normally not miss the preview of such a film, but the Frankfurt arthouse cinema Harmonie canceled it this week. There are different accounts of how this came about. In general, a lot of things are not entirely clear in this case.

Discussion about contemporary witnesses

The preview was initiated by the Zionist Organization Rhein/Main (ZO), and other Jewish organizations co-invited. Planned and in the cinema program preview announced (PDF, page 8) was a preview including a conversation with contemporary witness David Schiller on May 7th – about three weeks before the cinema release in Germany.

This contemporary witness has apparently brought critics into the spotlight. David Schiller took part as a soldier in the Yom Kippur War between Israel and neighboring Arab states in 1973. He later made a name for himself as an author and consultant on the topics of firearms, security and counterterrorism.

No contemporary witnesses or interlocutors from the Arab side were scheduled for the conversation about Golda Meir’s work in the 1970s.

Organizer: No concerns with the police

Apparently the reactions to this invitation caused the Harmonie Cinema to back down. In an email to Daniel Hofmann from the Zionist Organization, which is available to the hr, cinema director Dimitrios Charistes wrote that he was receiving increasing criticism of Schiller and his positions. Neither he nor the film distributor Weltkino were aware that this could happen when they were planning the preview.

There are serious safety concerns among individual employees, which he takes very seriously, Charistes wrote. That’s why we ask that Schiller be disinvited from the preview. It is unclear whether there were any specific threats against the cinema or the employees.

Daniel Hofmann from the Zionist Organization said in an interview with the hr on Thursday that this request was “grindingly” complied with. The police confirmed to him that they did not expect any increased danger surrounding the planned preview. The police have not yet responded to an HR request.

“No room for critical dialogue”

Completely unexpectedly for Hofmann, as he says, the cancellation of the entire event came on Tuesday of this week. The wording of the reasoning is similar to a written statement that Christopher Bausch, operator of the Arthouse Cinemas Frankfurt, to which Harmonie belongs, also sent to the hr on Thursday.

Elderly woman with a glass and a cigarette in her hand

The planned preview, which was not initiated by the cinema itself, “no longer does justice to our own discourse ideas,” wrote Bausch. “We always want to offer a space for diversity of opinions, open exchange and critical dialogue,” the statement continues.

“Since we can no longer guarantee this maxim of our discourse concept for the special event in question, we have to cancel an event without replacement,” informed Bausch. Tickets purchased would be canceled and the money would be transferred back to the guests. The film itself will open as planned on May 30th in one of the arthouse cinemas.

Open letter: “Outrageous defamation”

The organizers of the planned preview sharply condemned the cancellation in an open letter on Friday. With their decision, the Frankfurt arthouse cinemas joined the “worrying development that Jewish, Israeli and Israel-related events are increasingly unable to take place in the general public.”

This is a “renewed experience of marginalization without precedent in the history of the Federal Republic,” the letter says. The accusation that diversity of opinion, open exchange and critical dialogue were not guaranteed during the event is an “outrageous denigration”.

“Exclusion of the German-Israeli dialogue”

Instead, the “actual narrowing of the discourse” can be seen in the cancellation of the event. The decision “consequently contributes to uncertainty among Jews and to the exclusion of the German-Israeli dialogue.”

In addition to the ZO, the letter is signed by seven other clubs that co-organized the planned preview – including the Makkabi Frankfurt sports association and the Jewish women’s organization Wizo.

“Faced with a fait accompli”

In an interview with hr on Thursday, NicoleFactor from Wizo also criticized the fact that, contrary to her own statement, the filmmakers were “unwilling to really seek dialogue.” ZO representative Daniel Hofmann added: “They presented us with a fait accompli.”

Bausch declined to speak to the hr about the allegations made on Thursday, citing the written statement. He could not initially be reached on Friday to respond to the open letter.

Editor’s note: In an earlier version of the article we wrote that David Schiller took part in the Six-Day War as a soldier. That’s wrong. Please excuse the mistake.

Further information

Broadcast: hr1, May 2nd, 2024, 4:10 p.m

End of further information


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