I woke up to the news of a strange happening going on. A Saudi friend, who is also a journalist, sent me a photo of what looked like a Facebook post from August 20th of this year, by filmmaker Mohammed Khamis, claiming he had won the Best Director Award for his short documentary Three Stories from Gaza at the Mindfield Film Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He also wrote that he was proud to have gotten "the picture of Gaza in the right way."
She wondered, this journalist friend doing her dutiful research as a good journalist should, if this was true, as she wasn't able to find any evidence that the film had even participated in the festival, let alone walked away with a prize. Meanwhile, political organizations and cultural entities supporting the Palestinian cause had fallen all over each other on Twitter to spread the good news.
But it was all fake news. A total fabrication by a man looking for attention, complete with photoshopping his name and the name of his film into the official awards certificates from the festival -- which in turn is a legit event! This same filmmaker also announced to the Arabic media, and those willing and able to fall into his trap, that he had been accepted at DocAviv, the documentary film festival held once a year in Tel Aviv, Israel. And that once accepted he had boycotted the festival in support of Palestinians living under the occupation.
Once again, fake news. The name of the festival is even misspelled in most of the posts, I assume provided by the filmmaker himself. But that is a whole other rant, I shall leave for a different day.
As I talked to my friend in Riyadh, she was disappointed at this quest for awards, to the cost of the truth. While I have yet to watch the film, assuming there is one, and won't pass judgment on its quality, it is a sad day when a filmmaker seeks notoriety at the price of verity. And even more sad that medias around the world, as well as cultural and political organizations, are willing to repost something without checking it out. I'm certainly becoming more mindful of that myself, the more time passes.
Don't repost mindlessly, is my new mantra.
Just recently, a well respected journalist of Iranian heritage who works for a Russian state media outlet, posted a photo on Facebook of a quote by the late filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, who had written something supposedly criticizing the presence, via video stream, of Ukrainian President Zelenskyy at the opening ceremony of the Cannes Film Festival in May of this year. While some raced to repost and like/love away, one wise voice from the chorus of the incorrect pointed out this was fake news and that Godard hadn't commented about it, one way or another.
Moral of the story, check before posting anything on social media, even reposting, as you may become a useful pawn in the spread of misinformation and that's not really helping anyone.
Least of all the Palestinian people, who are fighting their own battles, and don't need fake news to add to the mix.