19 December 2023
Open Letter to the Short Film Industry

We’ve always held the short film industry in high regard because of its underdog position in the film ecosystem and its tendency to advocate for collaboration over status and hierarchy. Today, we voice our concern and disappointment with the industry’s lack of response and solidarity in relation to the war crimes and mass indiscriminate killing in Palestine.

The past months have demonstrated that our programming often relies on colonial, tokenistic and extractive practices where we take a lot but rarely return the solidarity. Festivals whose programming has been frequently used to perform social and political activism, and were quick to voice their support for the Black Lives Matter movement and opposition to the war in Ukraine, have remained silent for too long. A few others have released lukewarm statements that fail to clearly communicate their stance on the matter, least of all a call for permanent ceasefire, which is the most important in this moment. Any talk of complexity should be secondary to the priority of never condoning a state apartheid regime, indiscriminate killing of civilians, and intent of ethnic cleansing (further reading at the bottom). Our collective failure to condemn this invalidates the trust that we as arts organisations with socio-political commitments have built and profited from.

What has crystallised in this moment, perhaps more than ever before, is that our political commitment seems to be nothing but slogans on festival bags, empty words during opening speeches, and endless panels and roundtable discussions about inclusivity, diversity, decolonisation, and practices of care that have not been translated into meaningful action. We acknowledge that workers within art and cultural organisations may feel they are not in strong enough positions to be vocal if their leadership holds opposing views and/or doesn’t protect them. Responsible leadership requires humility and courage, as well as intelligent and humane readings of history and current events. How else can filmmakers trust programmers to read their films and provide them with safe spaces to exist for who they are?

Meanwhile, we have seen filmmakers, especially those who’ve already experienced marginalisation both in our industry and society at large, take precise positions against Israeli apartheid and human rights violations. Resulting censorship, cancelled screenings or banishment from institutions, has been reported both publicly and privately. We have received many messages from filmmakers, regularly platformed by our short film circuit, who feel betrayed by and unsafe to engage with festivals previously considered allies. Many festivals have chosen to uphold the status quo, to remain silent, instead of standing up for these artists, protecting their right to freedom of speech, and using their platform to ensure everyone feels seen. The impression this leaves us with is that the mainstream industry cares more about funders, partners, governments, and its own unshakable privilege than the filmmakers whose work it is built around and we are mandated to elevate. Equally alarming is the cancellation, questioning and destabilisation of small, grassroots organisations and festivals who refuse to uphold the status quo, and who are made even more vulnerable by the silence of big players.

We call on our industry to stop appropriating these artists’ voices, conflating their action, rage, and pain into marketable programmes to boost audiences and the industry’s perceptions that we exist as socially and politically engaged festivals. Let us be honest that we carry little of the responsibility, and we have missed a critical moment to come together and show support and solidarity. It becomes a difficult claim moving forward that we provide safe spaces for people of colour, the LGBTQIA+ community, or other groups in our predominantly white, cis, heteronormative spaces.

We demand our silent colleagues to acknowledge the violence Palestinians have suffered at Israel’s hands since the Nakba with the backing of Western powers. We reject the propagandistic conflation of Judaism/Jewish identity with the State of Israel. And we urge all of our peers to back calls for a permanent ceasefire and true freedom and equality for all people.

We want:

• To see the people and institutions who bear power do better and use their privilege for tangible change.

• To hold institutions accountable and demand a zero-tolerance policy towards Islamophobia, anti-semitism, and all other forms of racism and discrimination within our industry—something that has been seriously lacking in light of the racist remarks published through Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen’s social media channel. While many filmmakers and workers condemned this publicly, few festivals did. Critical voices have since been censored by the festival (see source below).

• For festivals to come together, to listen and understand what roles they can play in building collective power, if we are genuine about our values and commitments. Networks like the Short Film Conference could and should play a leading role in this.

Our industry requires a radical rethinking; to make it a truly inclusive and safe space for all.

Nobody’s Free Until Everybody’s Free.

For updates: instagram.com/totheshortfilmindustry


• A Textbook Case of Genocide: https://t.ly/J9ncb

• UN expert warns of new instance of mass ethnic cleansing: https://t.ly/zLTOj

• Damning evidence of war crimes: https://t.ly/LLoa0

• The international community must hold Israel responsible for its crimes of apartheid: https://t.ly/QmhE4

• Message to the international film community, regarding a recent statement from the director of Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen: https://t.ly/Zc5bN

Regarding the Cancellation of Theme Program

for Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen:


Update 21 December 2023


As part of this response we will aim to publish testimonies or comments by filmmakers, workers, and audiences who feel betrayed, angered, unsafe or are otherwise affected by the silence or actions from those previously considered allies and peers. These can be anonymous or named, and will be published as instagram posts on instagram.com/to.the.short.film.industry (please note this handle has changed from the one initially communicated).

If you would like to contribute, you can message us confidentially via Instagram or for full anonymity we recommend emailing us on totheshortfilmindustry@protonmail.com, via a service such as https://anonymousemail.me/.

We hope this will contribute to our aims and make our circuit understand that these silences and positions have consequences, and that responsibility, accountability, and action is necessary to regain trust and prevent further disengagement.

598 verified
  1. Wouter Jansen, Square Eyes
  2. Sanne Jehoul, Square Eyes, Glasgow SFF
  3. anonymous
  4. Niels Putman, Kortfilm.be
  5. Valentin Noujaim, Filmmaker, Paris
  6. Carlos Velandia, Filmmaker, Bogotá
  7. Céline Roustan, Programmer
  8. Amanda Assaley, Artist and Filmmaker, Frankfurt am Main
  9. Juliet Carpenter, Video artist filmmaker, Frankfurt am Main
  10. Emilia Mazik, freelance film programmer, Nijmegen
  11. Iván Reina Ortiz, Filmmaker & Programmer, Bogotá, Colombia
  12. May Ziadé, Filmmaker, London
  13. Florian Fernandez, Industry Coordinator, Programmer, France
  14. Andrés Jurado, Filmmaker, Lisboa-Santa Marta (Colômbia)
  15. Carmen Thompson, Film Programmer, Edinburgh
  16. Alkis Papastathopoulos, filmmaker, Athens
  17. Matt Lloyd, festival director, Glasgow Short Film Festival, Glasgow
  18. Andrea Coloma, Festival Director, MIX CPH LGBTQIA+ Film Festival, Copenhagen
  19. Charlotte Procter, LUX, Cinenova, London
  20. Mahdi Fleifel, Filmmaker, Nakba FilmWorks, Copenhagen
558 more
verified signatures
  1. Mima Simic, Writer, Berlin
  2. K. F. Watanabe, Writer, Tokyo
  3. Pablo Briones, Film director, Coldrerio
  4. Miguel de Jesus, Director, Producer, BAM BAM CINEMA, Portugal, Australia
  5. Susann Shin, Los Angeles
  6. Daz Chandler, Documentary Filmmaker, Origami Flight, Newcastle (Australia)
  7. Kim Garcia, Filmmaker/Programmer, NYC
  8. Miranda Mungai, Freelance short film programmer, Freelance/Communications Manager at BFMAF, Norwich
  9. Hira Nabi, Artist/filmmaker, Amsterdam
  10. Caris Rianne, Festival Director, Women X Film Festival, Darlington
  11. Jaskaran Gill, Writer, The Last Bite Films, Toronto
  12. Yuan Yuan, Filmmaker, new york
  13. Zaina Bseiso, Filmmaker, curator, Los Angeles
  14. Hasan Celil Tombul, Cineshort LLC.
  15. Sébastien SIMON, Filmmaker, festival programmer, film professor, Busan
  16. Aitor Arenas, Festival Director, programmer, BANATU
  17. Athanasia Bartzoka, film producer, freelancer, London
  18. phaedra vokali, filmmaker, athens
  19. Jack Henderson, Filmmaker, Glasgow
  20. Clarissa Charron, Filmmaker, Silk Ruffler, Nantes
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