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CapeCod 17/09/2010 - 04:07PM

Cinema Politica and Community Association Part Ways Over Censorship

Woods Hole Firehouse Venue

As of Thursday, the documentary film group Cinema Politica has learned that it will not be welcomed back to the Old Woods Hole Firehouse, a publicly-owned building administered by the Woods Hole Community Association.

After three months of mediation, negotiations for the film screenings to return to the Firehouse broke down when the WHCA refused to consider a non-discrimination policy for users of the building.

Cinema Politica had also offered to include a disclaimer on its advertising, absolving the WHCA of any responsibility for the content of the films screened at the Firehouse.

Although Cinema Politica entered into the mediation on good faith, the process failed to establish the group's right to show films without fear of censorship-or pressure to self-censor.

Rather than continue the dialogue, Cinema Politica has decided to do what it does best at an alternative screening venue. Cinema Politica Cape Cod plans to show films in Falmouth and across the Cape starting next month.

Having shown 60 films on a variety of subjects since November 2008, Cinema Politica was suspended from using the Firehouse in June, following a screening of "Occupation 101: Voices of the Silent Majority," a documentary film that explores the history of the Middle East from a Palestinian perspective.

"Cinema Politica's mission is to provide a venue for a diversity of topics and perspectives that do not get coverage in the mainstream media. The WHCA's actions have severely limited not only our ability to provide that outlet, but also for residents to exercise their freedom of speech by discussing the films in a public setting," said Woods Hole Cinema Politica co-founder Chris Spannos.

Falmouth attorney Ross Bluestein said the WHCA's actions have discriminated against Cinema Politica based on the content of films promoting equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians. "The repression of speech in a publicly administered building is a gross affront to the needs of our community for the kind of information necessary to participate in a democracy. No group administering a public building should be allowed tarnish the Constitution and discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or political content. Town officials should take a hard look at the autocratic behavior of the WHCA and determine whether a policy is needed to stop such abuses."

The Firehouse, located at 72 Water Street, Woods Hole, is a publicly-owned building leased from the Town of Falmouth by the Woods Hole Community Association, a non-profit organization.

Over a year ago, Cinema Politica was contacted by the WHCA to discuss a concern that members of the WHCA Board of Directors had with film screenings related to the Middle East. The issue came to a head in June, when the WHCA notified Cinema Politica that its use of the Firehouse would be suspended until September. Since July, the groups met three times to discuss their differences of opinion, facilitated by Cape Cod Mediation.


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