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Last week we reported on the huge conflict that’s placing a dark cloud over this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Several actors, producers, and writers are protesting the event due to a spotlight series that will highlight the Israeli city of Tel Aviv. With such a negative response to the festival being put out into the media, event director Piers Handling has decided to break his silence regarding the controversy.

Over on THR, Piers Handling responded to the growing criticism that the TIFF has received in the past few days. He stated, “Films are designed to do a bunch of things. And a (festival) program can pose a series of questions.”

He recalled earlier festival sidebars that stirred nationalist accusations and division, including in 1997 when Toronto presented 19 films from ex-Yugoslavia under the banner of Balkan Cinema: Home Truths.

“There were lots of communities, strong memories. And they all protested the inclusion of another community’s films. Handling remembers. The result is a “nervous festival,” Handling concedes, but one not likely to pit filmmaker against filmmaker as lines in the continuing Israeli and Palestinian divide are drawn.”

This type of conflict is nothing new to the festival, but he obviously doesn’t like the negative energy that it brings to those who are still involved. The TIFF is set to begin this Thursday, and only time will tell if the show goes off without a hitch.

What do you think of Handling’s response to the festival’s protest?