Thursday, May 22, 2008

Jerusalem is Proud to Present

My interview with Jerusalem director, Nitzan Gilady, appears in the current issue of Xtra! West.

By Andrea Warner

When organizers announced the 2006 World Pride march would be held in Jerusalem, Nitzan Gilady intended to capture this historic first in gay culture. He quickly realized his documentary, Jerusalem is Proud to Present, was actually a witness to a fight for human rights as organizers came up against formidable opposition, all in the name of the Holy Land.

“At the beginning, I was one of those who questioned why we need to have a parade at all?” Gilady admits, but as he began shooting, he experienced the homophobia and hatred firsthand.

“At that time it was very scary. You would never know where it would come from—
someone would lose his mind and think he should react towards the community,” he says, reflecting on his own frightening encounter, depicted in the film as he and Jerusalem’s only out gay council member visit the Orthodox community.

Gilady, who lives in Tel Aviv and came out to his family in 2005, was unprepared for one strong alliance that arose from the World Pride March proposal. Jewish, Christian, and Muslim leaders banded together against their common enemy: homosexuality.

“It was really weird to see that people really think like that. They said all these things, like ‘Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,’ and ‘This is the Holy Land, not the Homo Land.’ I couldn’t actually hold the camera because I was laughing,” Gilady says. “But also for me it was standing almost in front of my father, because these are things my father still thinks.”

While 4000 people ended up attending the march, 7000 police officers were required to protect participants, a further testament to the courage of Jerusalem’s gay community. The film debuted on a major cable channel in Israel, and was broadcast throughout the country, making it difficult for religious leaders to keep the word “gay” under wraps. It has also made the festival rounds and picked up several awards so far.

Kris Anderson, the festival director of DOXA, Vancouver’s upcoming documentary film festival, saw Jerusalem at a festival in Amsterdam and felt it was an important message Canadians needed to hear.

“I think it’s a universal story, and probably a story that is getting more and more important. Fundamentalist religion is growing, and people who are oppressed are at risk, and these kind of battles—people need to know about them all over the world.”

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