Hollywood Scandals: Orwa Nyrabia, Controversial Syrian-Born Filmmaker–Calls for Resignation as Director of IDFF and Expulsion from AMPAS? Clapped to Slogan “From the River to the Sea”

Under Fire After Applauding “From the River to the Sea” Opening Night Protest

Orwa Nyrabia, a Syrian-born filmmaker who has led the Amsterdam-based fest since 2018, denies he saw the words on the sign, says he “clapped to welcome freedom of speech, and not to welcome the slogan.”

Orwa Nyrabia, the award-winning documentarian who has served as artistic director of the International Documentary Film Festival since 2018, is facing blistering criticism and calls for his resignation after being captured on video applauding as protesters interrupted the Amsterdam-based fest’s opening ceremony while holding a banner proclaiming, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free,” a phrase used as call for the elimination of Israel.

Sixteen high-profile members of the Israeli film community signed letter addressed to IDFA and the international film industry in which they expressed “uttermost dismay, disappointment and concern” at Nyrabia’s conduct on the world’s largest documentary film festival.

“We see this as a personal attack against us, we call on the director of IDFA, and on its board of directors, to clearly and resoundingly distance themselves, reject and denounce these calls for violence and withdraw any platform from those who knowingly incite for the annihilation of Israel, instigating violence and giving rise to antisemitic sentiments against Jews everywhere.”

The signatories include Assaf Amir, chair of Israeli Film Academy; Hagit Ben Yaakov, chair of the Israeli Documentary Forum; Pnina Halfon Lang, executive director of CoPro — The Israeli Content Marketing Foundation; Adar Shafran, chair of the Israeli Producers Union; Limor Pinhasov, chair of the Israel Directors Guild; Ayala Sharot, chair of the Animation Guild of Israel; Nadav Ben Simon, executive director of the Screen Writers Guild of Israel; Limor Haaronivtz of the Docaviv Film Festival; Roni Mahadav of the Levin Jerusalem Film Festival; Yaron Shamir, artistic director of the Haifa Film Festival; Riki Blich, chairwoman of Shaham, The Israeli Actors Organization; Galy Reshef, chairman of ACT — The Israel Association of Cinema and TV Professionals; Tamir Hod of Cinema South Film Festival; Eli Ohana, chair of Alma — Association for the Production Professions; Guy Lavie, vp, documentaries at yes TV; Rinat Klein, head of Channel 8.
Nitzan Gilady wrote, “I couldn’t believe my eyes. This happened at the opening of the world’s largest documentary festival, with cheers from the audience and filmmaker’s.”

“This is not the way to express support for the just struggle of the Palestinian people,” said Noam Pinchas. “It’s a way to encourage hatred and death.” And Duki Dror opined, “It’s not just an anti-Israel sentiment from IDFA’s artistic director Orwa Nyrabia, but his support for crime against humanity.”

Rick Trank, the Oscar-winning documentarian who runs the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Moriah Films division, is calling for Nyrabia’s resignation. He said: “The IDFA is supposed to be an international gathering of documentary filmmakers where a diverse range of films expressing the gamut of opinions are presented. It is not supposed to be a partisan event calling for the destruction of the Jewish state.

85th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the 1938 Jewish pogrom

What is even more disturbing is that this call took place in Amsterdam on the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the 1938 pogrom in Austria and Germany which saw synagogues, Jewish schools and institutions and Jewish businesses firebombed and thousands of Jews arrested, beaten and murdered.”

Jewish authorities in the Netherlands have cautioned Dutch Jews to be careful about wearing anything in public that identifies them as Jews as antisemitic incidents have been occurring at the most alarming rate since the Holocaust. Many Jews have stopped wearing yarmulkes and stars of David in public and others have removed the mezuzahs from the exterior doorways of their homes.”

Nyrabia should step down immediately

Trank said: “Mr. Nyrabia should step down immediately from his position at the IDFA. He has shown that he cannot be a fair advocate for all documentary filmmakers, especially Jewish and Israeli documentarians. His actions have marred the reputation of a once respected film forum.”

IDFA: “That slogan does not represent us, and we do not endorse it in any way. We are truly sorry that it was hurtful to many.”

Expulsion from AMPAS and IDA?
He has been a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 2017 and member of the board of the International Documentary Association since earlier this year.