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CapeCod 25/06/2010 - 01:30PM

communication 101

Sharkwater

Dear CP Supporters,

We here at Cinema Politica would like to thank everyone who sent emails and nearly 100 people who signed our petition (** please DO NOT donate any money if you sign!!) over the course of the week.

While the situation is far from simple, we feel we owe you the right to hear the nature of the discussions we've been engaged with over the past year with the WHCA.

Yesterday, we invited Steve Junker, a co-president of the Association, to explain the WHCA's side of the story at tonight's screening of "Sharkwater," but he declined the offer. Instead, he offered to discuss the matter in private with the aid of a hired facilitator.

"The Board feels this is a difficulty we're having with a user, and in order to facilitate discussion we have to sit down in a small, direct conversation. To the Board, this is not a public issue," he said.

We wonder how you, as the "public," feel about that. While we are very interested in resolving the question of our use of the building, we feel that this problem all began because discussions were not open.

The Board criticized our failure to notify them, as requested, of our June 4 screening of "Occupation 101" and said that our response was the actual reason for their decision to not rent us the Firehouse this summer. To our memory, this agreement made in December was based on an understanding that the Board would also notify us of any conclusions it had made regarding what films we could or could not show. That way, we would be able to know where we stand, and whether or not we wanted to rent from them at all.

We did not hear from the Board in six months, during which time we did not show any films relating to Palestine. However, we felt we'd been placed in an awkward position of self-censoring our programming, due to the fact that we knew we'd get a dreaded phone call from the WHCA if we screened a film about this important human rights issue.

In retrospect, we should have shown the WHCA the courtesy of letting them know we would screen this film, as soon as that decision was made-- on Tuesday, June 1. According to Steve, had we done so, everything would have been fine.

But we cannot ignore the fact that treating a film about one particular subject differently than the others is the first step to censorship. And we, as well as many of you who have written to the WHCA, have pointed out that we have still not been informed just what the concern is about showing a documentary with a Palestinian viewpoint.

When we wrote an open letter to the WHCA, explaining why we did not inform them of the "Occupation 101" screening in advance, it was viewed as provocative by the Board, intended to escalate the situation. From our point of view, it was a letter asking the Board to clarify its position in regards to what is allowed, so that we could make a decision whether or not to accept the terms.

But according to Steve, "The Board tries to not make policy at all. We try not to decide-because once you decide it becomes a bigger problem. Not to say no rock bands after July 31, or no films about Palestine. Or you can show any film you want, because if you show a film we don't want that creates a situation we may be uncomfortable with."

We know it might not be an easy decision for the Board to make, but as a group that has the word "community" in its name, it may be time for them to take a stand, either way.

We are truly sorry that this rift has come up between two groups who do their best to make Woods Hole a vibrant place. We both could have communicated better. But ultimately, this issue brings to light just what kind of a community people want Woods Hole to be.