EXCLUSIVE: German broadcaster ARD has been accused of censorship over its decision to cancel the scheduled broadcast of a 2017 feature film by Palestinian director Annemarie Jacir Have to due to the Israel-Hamas conflict.
The film’s German co-producer Titus Kreyenberg told Deadline Have to was scheduled to air this coming Sunday (November 19), and the programming slot had been set for months and had already been announced on TV schedules.
“It has been removed from the schedule. Internally, we were told that it had been decided that it was not the time to show a Palestinian film,” said Kreyenberg, who works under the banner of Unafilm in Berlin and Cologne and whose credits include: Octopus skin AND Woman.
Deadline contacted ARD – a joint network of 10 German regional public broadcasters – as well as Hamburg member NDR, which supported the production. The networks have not yet responded.
Jacira’s drama Have to is a gentle comedy-drama showing the reality of Palestinians living within Israel’s borders. Set in the city of Nazareth, Bakri stars as a father reuniting with his estranged son (played by Saleh Bakri’s real-life son), who returns from his adopted home in Italy for his sister’s wedding.
Together, father and son begin the ritual of hand-delivering invitations to friends and family, arguing and then meeting up along the way.
The decision to withdraw the film comes nearly six weeks after the deadly Hamas terrorist attacks on southern Israel, in which 1,200 people were killed and more than 240 people were taken hostage and deported to the Gaza Strip.
Since then, Israel’s retaliatory military campaign in Gaza to annihilate Hamas and recover its hostages has killed more than 11,500 people and displaced 70% of the 2.3 million population, according to Hamas-led health authorities. The sounds of conflict are felt around the world.
Kreyenberg said concerns have been expressed over the fact that his collaborator Mohammad Bakri, who is one of the most famous Palestinian actors, is also the director of the 20-year-old documentary Jenin, Jenin.
The controversial work describes the events surrounding the Israeli army’s incursion into the West Bank city of Jenin in April 2022 after a series of suicide attacks in Israel, from an exclusively Palestinian perspective.
“I wrote to the launch director emphasizing that regardless of your views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, at some point the fighting will stop and the two nations will have to sit down and begin a dialogue,” Kreyenberg said. “This film is about dialogue, dialogue between father and son. Cinema can help dialogue.”
Have to was scheduled to air late night from 11:50 p.m. to 1:23 a.m. CET on ARD’s flagship First channel, which will then be made available in Germany for a limited period as part of a catch-up service. Deadline reviewed the schedule online and it has been removed.
Kreyenberg said the broadcast was programmed several months ago as part of the double bill on Fathers and Sons and the hybrid work of Danish director Anders Østergaard Winter journey.
The Arizona-set docudrama, which stars the late Swiss actor Bruno Ganz as a retired Jewish furniture salesman who tells his son the story of his escape from Nazi Germany, went on as scheduled on November 12.
“The puzzling thing is that ARD continued broadcasting Winter journey and not Have tofor me it is a form of censorship,” Kreyenberg said.
Have to world premiered in Competition at the 2017 Locarno Film Festival, where it won four awards, including a Special Award, and went on to win a further 36 international awards, including Best Film in Mar Del Plata, Dubai, Amiens, DC Film Festival in Kerala and a jury distinction at the London BFI festival.
Jacir told Deadline that she is “totally appalled” by ARD’s decision to pull the film.
“A film about a father and son delivering wedding invitations. “It is shameful that at this dark moment in history, ARD has chosen to suppress artists’ voices rather than offer a space where we can share our stories, our culture and our dreams,” she said.
“It is extremely disturbing that in 2023, Germany is engaging in censorship and the silencing of independent voices. This is the opposite of everything a free world should be.
Have to the main producer was Ossama Bawardi at Philistine Films, a company operating together with Jacir.
The co-producers were Jacques Bidou and Marianne Dumoulin from Paris-based JBA Productions, Kreyenberg, Katrin Pors from Denmark’s Snowglobe, Ruben Thorkildsen from Norway’s Ape&Bjørn and Georges Schoucair from Schortcut Films from Beirut, as well as Sawsan Asfari, Cristina Gallego and Maya Sanbar.
Linus Günther at Hamburg’s Klinkerfilm was a junior producer and Raja Dubayah was an associate producer.