Is British Film Institute Funded ‘A Gaza Weekend’ Anti-Israel Propaganda?

Deadline reports about a new comedy titled A Gaza Weekend.

Deadline can reveal a first clip for Oscar-nominated British-Palestinian director Basil Khalil’s debut feature A Gaza Weekend ahead of its world premiere in Toronto’s Discovery section.

The dark comedy, conceived before the Covid pandemic, is set against the backdrop of mass panic when a mutant virus known as ARS breaks out in Israel. The only safe place is the Palestinian territory of the Gaza Strip, due to the separation wall.

U.K. actor Stephen Mangan co-stars opposite Palestinian actress Mouna Hawa, best-known internationally for Maysaloun Hamoud’s 2016 festival breakout and TIFF Netpac award winner In Between.

The cast also features rising Palestinian talents Adam Bakri (Official Secrets) and Maria Zreik (The TranslatorLaila In Haifa).

Mangan plays a bumbling Englishman opposite Hawa as his uptight Israeli partner. After their attempts to flee Israel by conventional routes fail, the well-heeled couple pay a Palestinian hustler to smuggle them into the densely populated Palestinian enclave.

Their presence does not go unnoticed setting in motion a farcical chain of events for all involved, as they fight to keep one step ahead of Gaza residents not keen to see Israelis on their soil.

The production, which reunites Khalil with many of the cast and crew of his 2016 Oscar-nominated short film Ave Maria, began its shoot in Israel on the eve of the Covid pandemic in early 2020.

“This scene was filmed at Haifa port, a few weeks before the worldwide lockdown happened. It bizarrely foresees the panic many of us faced, as lockdowns were being rolled out around the globe, and travellers were scrambling to get home before borders closed,” the director explained of the scene in the clip.

The film reportedly won a grant of £875,000 from the British Film Institute, so I would like to think it is not anti-Israel propaganda – which is hard to tell just from the trailer and available information.

On one hand, the filmmaker had this to say, which is promising:

“Being half Palestinian, half British and brought up in Israel I was always able to look at the Israeli-Arab issues with different eyes,” said Khalil in his grant request for the film in 2010.

“I was able to experience both sides of the argument and learned to respect both people as human beings and for who they are. From what I see, that mutual respect is what both sides lack, these days. Seeing the other side as an equal human being isn’t popular anymore.

On the other hand, he also said this:

“A Gaza Weekend is an action comedy film set in the non-specific near future. It embodies a sense of humor the people of that region have honed, similar to that of the ghetto humor of the 1940s.”

Which seems to indicate he is comparing Gaza to a ghetto, which is not only wrong, but antisemitic.

There are also some other troubling indications, like the Israeli-Arab actors and actresses being referred to as “palestinian;” IMDB referring to one of the countries of origin as “Occupied Palestinian Territory” (and no mention of Israel); and hardly any Jewish Israeli actors in the production, even in the main role of the Jewish Israeli woman.

I am wondering whether this last point is due to some inherent bias, or whether, part of the movie was actually filmed in Gaza. Because I highly doubt any Jewish actors would be allowed in or would live to tell the tale (as opposed to the Arab actors, who freely filmed in Haifa and likely even live there).

And that is another gripe with the film, based on the available information. It is all well and good to present things as a comedy to humanize each side, but let’s be honest. If this situation actually occurred, it would be no laughing matter. Any Jews found in Gaza would be brutally slaughtered.

Update: On the other hand, another positive sign: lead actor Stephen Mangan does not seem to be an anti-Israel propagandist:

In fact, his story about Israeli security is gold!


David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media