Kate Winslet-Narrated Documentary Director’s Weak Denial That Co-Director Isn’t Hamas Supporter

http://oiff.com.ua/en/index.htm, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Last year I wrote about the Kate Winslet-narrated Eleven Days in May, an anti-Israel documentary codirected by palestinian Arab film-maker Mohammed Sawwaf and Britain’s Michael Winterbottom.

Apparently, it has not done as well as Winterbottom would have liked because of a report linking Sawwaf to Hamas.

UK director Michael Winterbottom has suggested that his 2022 Gaza documentary Eleven Days In May had a tougher time securing a UK broadcast partner following an article in the London-based Jewish Chronicle linking his Palestinian co-director to Hamas.

The Kate Winslet-narrated documentary Eleven Days In May commemorates 68 Palestinian children killed by the Israeli bombing of Gaza in 2021. It consists of filmed vignettes in which the families recall their lost children and speak of their loss.

Revolution Films theatrically released the film in the UK in May 2022 to positive reviews, but the film became mired in controversy following a report in the Jewish Chronicle suggesting Sawwaf had Hamas connections.

The newspaper dubbed the film “Hamas propaganda’ saying Sawwaf had received an award for “countering the Zionist narrative’ from leaders of Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organization in the UK, US, Canada, Japan and the European Union. The article claimed Sawwaf’s father had ties to Hamas and that the filmmaker was supportive of the organization on social media.

Talking at a Doha Film Institute masterclass on Wednesday, Winterbottom said the film had been harder to distribute than expected, although an international TV deal is now under negotiation.

“The film had a cinema release in the UK and got five-star reviews about how unbiased it was. After that, there was an article in the Jewish Chronicle. The gist of it was a smear, saying essentially, he’s from Gaza, he supports Hamas, therefore he supports terrorism, therefore you shouldn’t take anything in this film seriously,” said Winterbottom.  “My feeling and Mohammed’s feeling was that it is best to ignore that type of article.”

Some 10 months later, Winterbottom said he feels the article and the controversy it stoked deterred some potential broadcast partners.

“We had a theatrical release in the UK, but we didn’t have a TV deal. The article that was written in the UK press was obviously an attempt to put people off the idea of showing it. I think Mohammed did a great job and I am very proud of the film, but we had a much more difficult time in getting it out there than we would have expected.”

“The smears in the article about Mohammed was that he deals with Hamas. Hamas runs Gaza, of course, he deals with Hamas. When you’re making a film in the city of London, you need to get permission. We take money from the government and taxpayers. We take money from the BBC. That doesn’t mean we’re stooges, or making propaganda films.”

Winterbottom said the aim of the work had been to present a record of the children and the impact of their deaths on their families. 

“From the beginning, the idea was to remember all of them. It’s a memorial,” he said. 

Winterbottom is being disingenuous in claiming Sawwaf is being unfairly smeared because he merely dealt with Hamas in order to get permission for the film. The JC article revealed the extent of his alignment with Hamas and their propaganda.

Co-director Mohammed Sawwaf was presented with an award by Hamas leaders for his work “countering the Zionist narrative”.

On social media, he has celebrated the launching of rockets against civilian targets and effectively called for the destruction of the State of Israel, saying that the map of Palestine should extend “from the sea to the river”.

Crucially, it fails to include criticism made of Hamas for launching rockets from heavily populated areas of Gaza – effectively turning the civilian population into a human shield.

It omits reports that seven children in Gaza were killed by Hamas rockets that had fallen short of the intended targets in Israel.

Further, the film omits any mention of claims that some of the minors who were killed had been active fighters.

A 15-year-old featured in the documentary, Mohammad Saber Ibrahim Suleiman, who was killed near Jabalia on 10 May, had been featured on social media wearing a Hamas military uniform and receiving weapons training. His father, according to a Gaza children’s rights group, Defence of Children International Palestine (DCIP), was a Hamas military commander.

Filmmaker Mr Sawwaf attended the Islamic University in Gaza, an institution that Hamas controls. In 2013 he made a documentary which said the terror group was right when it mounted its coup in Gaza against its rival Fatah because of their alleged corruption.  

In 2014 the Hamas media department honoured Mr Sawwaf with a special award for “countering the Zionist narrative” and being able to “penetrate European public opinion” through his work.

He was presented with it by Hamas leaders Mushir Al-Masry, Salah Al-Bardawil and Fawzi Barhoum at a gala ceremony at the Haifa Hotel on the Gaza seafront.

Mr Sawwaf was a guest on al-Aqsa TV, the pro-Hamas TV channel, on Tuesday this week, when he talked about his film and the impact he hoped it would have.

In tweets highlighted by media watchdog CAMERA Arabic, he has applauded the launching of rockets by Palestinian forces against Israeli civilian targets.

In 2012, he posted: “Gaza bombs Tel Aviv – Gaza bombs Jerusalem – wow, what do you know – praise Allah – all in all feeling great.”

The same year he said: “Calling ‘Allahu Akbar’ during Eid – people feel the taste of victory – isn’t it enough for us that the alarm sirens were heard again in Tel Aviv, isn’t it enough for us that weak Gaza bombed the occupation in its heartland?”

In 2014 he tweeted: “In Jerusalem, Haifa, Tel Aviv and all of our 1948 lands, when rockets are launched towards them everybody runs to the shelters except their original residents who celebrate them.”

During the May conflict last year, he tweeted that the map of Palestine should be redrawn so it extends “from the sea to the river”.

The slogan “from the river to the sea” is widely recognised as a Hamas chant, and has been taken to mean a refusal to accept the right of the State of Israel to exist within its internationally recognised borders.

He has repeatedly used the hashtag “Hamas”.

Sawwaf’s father is Mustafa Sawwaf, who was formerly a member of the Hamas politburo.

Mustafa set up the pro-Hamas news agency al-Jil, where Mohammed used to work, and is currently a member of Hamas’s shura, or religious council.

And as I mentioned in my previous post, two of the children mentioned in the documentary’s trailer had siblings who were almost certainly killed by misfired Hamas rocketsnot Israel.

Winterbottom is aware of this JC report, and yet is dismissing it out of hand, with a joke of an excuse.

Remember, he claims the film is a “memorial” to the children killed. If it truly was, he would not have omitted to mention those who were killed due to misfired Hamas rockets and because Hamas fired rockets using them as human shields.

Come to think of it, Winterbottom is an appropriate name because he is talking out of his arse.


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

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