Protestors clash outside historic cinema after venue vandalised for showing film about Hamas terror attack

Pro-Israeli protestors formed a guard around the cinema

Emma Guinness
Friday 24 May 2024 12:19 BST

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Louise Thomas

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Protestors have clashed outside the historic Phoenix cinema in London after the building was graffitied following its decision to show a documentary about the Nova music festival attack.

The film, Supernova: The Music Festival Massacre, controversially featured footage from survivors and Hamas attackers and is being shown as part of the Seret International Israeli Film Festival.

The festival has been subject to several boycott calls because of Israel’s ongoing war on Palestine, but it has gone ahead in the UK where it has been cited as an important chance to showcase Israeli culture.

Following news of the film at the cinema, it was attacked by pro-Palestine vandals yesterday morning (23 May) before the documentary was even aired.

They wrote “Say no to art washing” in block capitals outside of what is London’s longest continually running cinema.

The term art washing refers to the use of art to legitimise otherwise damaging actions by a group or an individual.

This prompted calls for a protest in the evening, which was attended by those pro-Israeli and pro-Palestine protestors.

The cinema took part in the Israeli Film Festival
The cinema took part in the Israeli Film Festival (Alamy)

Hundreds of people attended the protest, with largely pro-Israeli protestors waving flags outside the historic cinema, seemingly protecting it from further damage.

Alongside a video of the protest shared to Twitter (X), a protestor wrote: “Came to support @Phoenixcinema against antisemites. Turns out a few other people had the same thought.”

The prevalence of pro-Israeli protestors, who appeared to be in the majority, was met with much praise on social media.

“Didn’t get in to see the documentary, but it felt so good to be amongst a bit of normality, singing and peaceful gathering,” wrote one protestor on Twitter (X).

A second Twitter user wrote: “Great to see the beautiful people of London standing up for what is true and right in this world.”

“Incredible sights, Israel thanks our friends in England!” wrote a third while a fourth added: “I am sorry that this is necessary, but it is heartening to see.”

However, there was some controversy surrounding at least one protestor, who was caught on camera appearing to threaten to slit the throat of another. It is not immediately clear which side he was on.

But despite the uproar surrounding the screening of the film, the Phoenix cinema has said the screening will still go ahead as planned.

The group that runs the venue, The Phoenix Cinema Trust, said: “The private hire of the cinema by Seret was agreed by the Phoenix board of trustees at a recent meeting. Since hearing disagreement with this decision from some, the board discussed the hire again and considered the views it has heard.

“Our conclusion is that for all private hires, including this one, the Phoenix should not aim to censor or veto the content of screenings, provided they are legal and, in this instance, unless we are advised by the police that it would unsafe to proceed.”

While the cinema stood by its decision to screen the film, Ken Loach and Mike Leigh also resigned as its patrons, describing the decision to take part in the festival as “simply unacceptable”.

Loach told The Guardian: “‘My resignation as a patron of the Phoenix shows what I think of their decision. It is simply unacceptable.”

Ken Loach has resigned as a patron of the cinema over the film screening, dubbing it ‘simply unacceptable’
Ken Loach has resigned as a patron of the cinema over the film screening, dubbing it ‘simply unacceptable’ (PA Wire)

The Metropolitan Police told The Independent: “Police were called at 10:11hrs on Thursday, 23 May to reports of criminal damage at the Phoenix Cinema in High Road N2.

“An investigation has been launched. There have been no arrests.

“While enquiries are ongoing, at this time the incident is being investigated as a potential hate crime.

“Police had already been made aware of protests expected at the venue regarding a film screening on Thursday night.

“Officers will be there to make sure those attending can protest safely whilst at the same time minimising serious disruption to the community.”

The Independent has reached out to representatives of Ken Loach and Mike Leigh as well as the Metropolitan Police and the Phoenix cinema for further comment.

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