Photo credit: Courtesy of Just Vision

“The question of what you can do with your money is not just an individual question. The power of boycott is the power of collective organizing. The attempt to take this collective power away from Americans was relevant in the past, and will remain relevant 20 or 30 years from now. That is the way we can have our voices heard.” Julia Bacha, Director of Boycott and Creative Director of Just Vision

“Some of the moments we’re most proud of — the civil rights era, the anti-apartheid movement, Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerte fighting for the rights of farm workers — these moments wouldn’t have been possible if anti-boycott laws had already taken the right to boycott away from us.”

About the film: When a news publisher in Arkansas, an attorney in Arizona, and a speech therapist in Texas are told they must choose between their jobs and their political beliefs, they launch legal battles that expose an attack on freedom of speech across 33 states in America. Boycott traces the impact of state legislation designed to penalize individuals and companies that choose to boycott. A legal thriller with “accidental plaintiffs” at the center of the story, Boycott is a bracing look at the far-reaching implications of anti-boycott legislation and an inspiring tale of everyday Americans standing up to protect our rights in an age of shifting politics and threats to freedom of speech.

Just Vision and The Motion Picture Associaton hosted a private screening of Boycott followed by an intimate discussion with the film’s producer, Suhad Babaa and director, Julia Bacha and the film’s protagonists, Mikkel Jordahl of Arizona and Alan Leveritt of Arkansas who were directly impacted by anti-boycott laws, and Brian Hauss, the ACLU’s chief litigator on this issue moderated by Rebecca Abou-Chedid.

“I am part of a team called Just Vision. We are a media nonprofit organization that fills a media gap on Israel, Palestine and for now 18 years, we’ve been making films that are generally about subjects and stories that otherwise audiences wouldn’t know about,” said the film’s producer Suhad Babaa, “This is our first film based in the United States. We decided that we needed to come to the US with this story because we saw over the past few years a growing number of laws in Israel focused on quashing dissent that started getting mirrored across Europe and in The United States. When we learned about the amazing plaintiffs like Bahia Amawi and Alan Leveritt and Mikkel Jordahl who were challenging these anti-boycott bills, we felt we had a powerful narrative thread to make sure to sound the alarm bell about laws that were being passed, largely without any public scrutiny, and with most Americans still not knowing that they exist.”

Suhad Babaa

“Every single federal district court that has reached the merits on these anti boycott laws with the exception of the district court in Arkansas, has held that they violate the first amendment,” added Brian Hauss. “And so on the one hand that’s been very gratifying and I think it has slowed the pace of legislation over the past several years, but what we saw in response to those legal victories is that the states then moved to amend or narrow their laws so that they applied to larger businesses, businesses with more than 10 employees and government contracts worth more than a hundred thousand dollars. It doesn’t really affect the legal merits of the question about whether they violate the first amendment, right to boycott. But what it meant is that our clients in these cases, many of whom were individual sole proprietors or small business owners, they were no longer being affected. And so that meant that the preliminary rulings, the courts reached, they didn’t have an opportunity to work their way through the judicial system. I think we’re still gonna see a lot of recklessness at the state legislative level and at the federal level. We’re even seeing attempts to criminalize participation in certain disabled boycotts for example.  We’ll have to see what happens, but the stakes are very high.”

Brian Hauss