The 29th Acco Festival of Alternative Israeli Theatre was supposed to get underway during the Intermediate Days of Sukkot: October 15 through 19, 2008. However, due to the friction and resultant riots between Jews and Arabs in the city during Yom Kippur, Acco Mayor Shimon Lankry has decided to cancel the Festival.
This year’s range of Festival offerings, representing an investment of over $1 million, was aimed to be especially broad, touching on national history, the political and societal, and different manners of coping within the varieties of nuclear and extended family.
Artistic Director Daniella Michaeli said at a press conference last month: “With the 29th Acco Festival, I conclude the four most exciting, challenging, and wisdom-enriching years of my professional life. The encounter with a tremendous range of creative artists, and the dialogue held between them and the Artistic Committee, is a thrilling experience for me each year. During the past four years, we have sought unique artists who would receive a stage upon which to wonder, to experiment, to develop and grow. We insisted on advancing artistic and production levels, and set ourselves a goal to advocate and promote open-air and street theatre. Alongside these, we initiated special projects to involve visual artists, local youth, and performers from abroad.”
Following the Mayor's announcement, a group of artists and performers taking part in the Festival, headed by Artistic Director Michaeli, appealed to the Ministry of Culture and Acco Municipality. They call not to surrender to violence and to hold the Festival, showing that culture can serve as a bridge for coexistence between two peoples.
Nevertheless, General Director of the Acco Festival Albert Ben-Shloosh, who as an Acco resident has experienced the riots first-hand over the past few days, has said in response: "As General Director and producer of the Festival for the past nine years, holding the Festival is more important to me than anyone else in the State of Israel. However, with the lack of a festive atmosphere, the situation unfortunately does not allow us to hold the Festival at the moment. Acco residents and many other guests will obviously stay away from the Festival, so who will the Festival in Acco be held for? I have no doubt that once the dust settles on these incidents we will hold the Festival."
This year’s Festival, attracting cultural attachés and festival directors from all over the world, was to extend over five days, encompassing 430 performances of 65 works and events: shows in the Festival’s competition of new works, special productions and events, street theatre and open-air acts, alongside guest productions from Israel and abroad. It was to host ten shows from abroad: from Germany, England, Poland, France, the Netherlands, and Italy.
The Acco Festival of Alternative Israeli Theatre is produced and managed by the Acco Municipality in collaboration with the Old Acre Development Corporation. It is supported by: the Ministry of Science, Culture, and Sports’ Council for Culture and the Arts; the Ministry of Tourism; the “Israel at 60” Anniversary Administration; the Israel National Lottery; the Jewish Agency; the Galilee Development Authority; the Beracha Fund; and the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption.
Minister of Science, Culture and Sports Raleb Majadele, who objects to the Festival's cancellation, said that calling off the Acco Festival means surrendering to extremists. "It is important to hold cultural events, especially at such a time, in order to serve as a connecting bridge between peoples," Majadele explained.
The Ministry of Science, Culture and Sports announced that it would launch cultural and musical events featuring Jewish and Arab artists, in collaboration with Omanut Laam. The events, under the heading "Yes to Art, No to Violence", will be held in mixed Jewish-Arab cities across Israel: Acco, Haifa, Ramla, Lod and Jaffa.
Arab artists and public officials have decided to launch a week-long festival to start today (Wednesday). "We will try to revive the city", said actor and director Mohammad Bakri. "We are trying to salvage what little is left of the Festival that was cancelled due to political decisions, which does nothing but harm Acco's reputation," Bakri said. "The festival cannot serve as alternative to the Acco Festival since we do not have the same resources, but we will do everything in our power to revive the city."
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