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US-Israeli actress Aleeza Chanowitz says Stockholm Film Festival withdrew invite over war

Aleeza Chanowitz in TV show Chanshi
Aleeza Chanowitz in TV show Chanshi Copyright HOT
Copyright HOT
By David Mouriquand
Published on Updated
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The Stockholm Film Fest has apologised to Aleeza Chanowitz for “misunderstanding” - but the US-Israeli actress has decided not to attend the festival: “They aren’t being honest with me.”

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US-Israeli director and actress Aleeza Chanowitz has ditched plans to attend the Stockholm Film Festival (which lasts until 19 November) with her TV show 'Chanshi' following a series of email exchanges in the wake of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

It seems that the event attempted to rescind an invite it made earlier this fall. And then later apologised.

Recounting the episode to Deadline, Chanowitz said she had been planning to travel to Stockholm for the 'Chanshi' screening on Thursday 16 November.

Chanowitz stars as a young Jewish Orthodox woman from Brooklyn who escapes an arranged marriage and moves to Israel in search of sexual adventure... Only to discover that her vision of the country is wrong. The show also stars Henry Winkler as the protagonist’s father.

Produced by Tel Aviv-based Kastina Communications, the show first aired on Israeli network HOT at the end of 2022, playing in Sundance’s Indie Episodic sidebar in January of this year.

Aleeza Chanowitz and Henry Winkler in Chanshi
Aleeza Chanowitz and Henry Winkler in ChanshiHOT

Chanowitz was told that her invite was no longer active because the Israeli embassy sponsorship of her travel costs had been withdrawn as its resources were being deployed elsewhere in the wake of the Hamas terror attacks of 7 October.

Chanowitz offered to pay her own travel costs, and was told in an email from the hospitality department that the festival had to “to take a stand”.

When Chanowitz pushed back and said she was still happy to attend, she was told that under a Swedish Foreign Ministry advisory warning against travel to and from Israel, they could no longer welcome her as a guest. The festival said she could instead do an online Q&A to accompany the screening.

Chanowitz said: “I am surprised by the festival’s cowardice, and it really sucks because I wanted to have a nice time at a cultural event where I could take a break from our scary reality and enjoy and discuss art. I also ‘have had to take a stand’; I stand with the Jews, Israelis of all kinds, peace with our neighbors, and most of all with the families of the hostages. If you’re a human in Stockholm who wants to watch an hour of an entertaining, funny, and human story, please go to the screening of Chanshi.”

Chanshi
ChanshiHOT

Following her statement, Chanowitz told Deadline she had received a new email from Stockholm on Monday (13 November) in which the festival apologised. The organisation said there had been a misunderstanding.

“From the bottom of our hearts, we at the Stockholm International Film Festival are deeply sorry and take responsibility for the misunderstanding that was communicated to Aleeza Chanowitz and the team behind Chanshi,” the festival said on Monday.

“Stockholm International Film Festival always stands behind its films and filmmakers and would never refuse a participating director’s visit, nor cancel the screening of their work for political reasons. We are incredibly sorry about this bad communication that has caused pain for the team and for the wider Jewish community,” the festival added.

In a second official statement released to Deadline, Chanowitz said: “The festival’s excuse as to why they don’t want me to attend has changed three times, which makes me feel that they aren’t being honest with me. I don’t think I’ll be going because I don’t feel very welcome anymore. I also wanted to buy a nice sweater - I’ll buy one in Israel instead and support our economy.”

Additional sources • Deadline

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