unspecified strange behaviour was enough to get you kicked out of the hyper-security-sensitive Toronto Jewish Film Festival this year. Daniel Rzondzinski and Carlos Weigle learned that the hard way this past Saturday, April 27, when they attended a festival screening at the Bloor Cinema.
Before they could even sit down, a security operative who refused to identify himself curtly demanded their “identifications.” He then asked them if they knew what film they were about to watch and if they knew where it was made, before finally leaving them alone to “enjoy the show.”
Festival executive director Helen Zukerman did come and apologize to them both for the rude interrogation, explaining that they were being extra-cautious this year.
“I was comfortable with everything until his friend said to me, “It’s not like I have a gun here,’ and I thought that was very inappropriate,” says Zukerman. “That’s like going to the airport and saying, “I don’t have a bomb.'”
Soon after that the two festival patrons were approached in their seats by two uniformed police officers who escorted them out and offered to refund their tickets.
Rzondzinski and Weigle, who are both from Argentina, say they were never given a clear explanation as to why they were singled out and asked to leave. But Weigle maintains they never raised their voices or caused a scene.
“We were humiliated, treated like terrorists in a full house,” says Weigle, a journalist working in Toronto. “Everybody saw us being escorted by police officers.”
Zukerman says she is sorry for the way they were treated but that she ultimately deferred to the festival’s security people.
“The two (police officers) who were on duty for the evening and our private security said to me, “I am very uncomfortable with them in the theatre — it’s your call,'” says Zukerman. “I said, “If you’re uncomfortable — we have 800 people in the theatre — then I think we should ask them to leave.'”
Zukerman says they were made to leave simply because “there was somebody at the front who suggested that their behaviour was a little strange, that’s all.”Asked if security may have overreacted, Zukerman concedes, “It’s a possibility.”