This decision has nothing to do with the boycott move covered in a recent post. The Jewish Chronicle reports that complaints were received because Rechy Elias, the director of Gift of Fire, had requested that men be barred from the screening. The Odeon group could not agree to this restriction:
A spokesperson said: “We do not, and will not, restrict entry to any film based on gender. We only restrict entry to our screenings based on age – as laid out in legislation around BBFC ratings.”
In response, the co-founders of the festival, Odelia Haroush, Anat Koren and Patty Hochmann released a joint statement on Friday, saying they were withdrawing the film.
They said: “We could not accommodate Mrs Elias’s religious requirements and enable the cinema to maintain its policy not to restrict entry to any film based on gender.
“The film contains women dancing and singing, and the Charedi community, and indeed many religious Jews, do not feel that men should be watching this.
“We respect the position of the filmmaker and the cinema alike, but have decided at this time we need to honour both parties and the only way to do so is to cancel the screening at Odeon Swiss Cottage.”
According to this report, festival organisers had initially planned to try to prevent men from watching the film:
In a defiant move, festival organisers responded to the Odeon statement by saying they “will stand outside the cinema and stop men from going in if we have to.”
Odelia Haroush the festival co-founder said: “We speak to the general manger every three days and he tells us if men have bought tickets.
“We will ask any men on the day to leave and offer them something else to see. If they don’t we will pull the whole screening all together.”
David Lass’s point seems a very reasonable one:
He said: “The festival said they were a private charity in the UK, and were entitled to hold private screenings for women only to see special films during their annual festival.
“However since all the cinema venues involved in the festival programme are open to the general public, I believe that this policy of excluding male film-goers from all screenings would be quite unjustified under UK equality laws.