What to Read Next

TIFF gathers to support imprisoned filmmaker/activist John Greyson

Will Perkins
September 10, 2013

While they may not always agree with him, the international film and creative community has come together in a big way to support imprisoned Canadian filmmaker and activist John Greyson.

On Tuesday morning, some of Greyson’s most high profile supporters (including “The English Patient” author Michael Ondaatje, directors Sarah Polley, Atom Egoyan, and Alex Gibney, and TIFF artistic director Noah Cowan) joined Greyson’s sister Cecilia at the TIFF Bell Lightbox to make a statement calling upon the Egyptian government to release the filmmaker and his colleague Dr. Tarek Loubani.

Greyson (who is best known for his 1996 Genie-winning film “Lilies”) and Loubani were arrested in Egypt last month and have been held in a jail outside of Cairo for more than three weeks without charge. The pair was planning to travel to the Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza in order to work on a film, but were detained after stopping at a Cairo police station to ask for directions. Loubani is an emergency room physician and part of a Canadian program to train Palestinian doctors, who along with Greyson has been a supporter of human rights in the region for some time.

The imprisoned filmmaker, whose movies often centre on gay themes and human rights, has a controversial history with the Toronto International Film Festival. In 2009, Greyson withdrew his film “Covered” from the fest and boycotted the event for spotlighting Israeli filmmakers but failing to include “Palestinian voices.” Greyson’s past disagreements with TIFF have obviously been put aside in the wake of his current situation.

“We don’t always agree with his point of view or his politics, but we all fiercely defend his right to speak his mind,” said “Devil’s Knot” director Atom Egoyan after reading an open letter from Greyson and Loubain’s supporters. “This is about freedom of expression and freedom of speech.”

The letter was signed by over 300 artists, academics, and filmmakers from around the world, including Ben Affleck, Alec Baldwin, Lena Dunham, Colin Firth, Todd Haynes, Mira Nair, Frances McDormand, Mark Ruffalo, Charlize Theron, Wim Wenders, Michelle Williams, and Willem Dafoe.

“Documentary filmmakers go all over the world - sometimes to very dangerous places,” Oscar-winning doc maker Alex Gibney said. “It’s important that they be able to do so with a sense that the international community of artists have their backs.”

“As artists we have a special responsibility to protest when human rights are violated,” novelist Michael Ondaatje said before reading off a list of fellow authors who are also supporting Greyson and Loubani’s cause.

“[John’s] film ‘Lilies’ really changed the way I looked at the medium of film, and left me thrilled and excited about the idea of being a filmmaker,” actress/director Sarah Polley said. “It's been so inspiring for all of us who love Tarek and John to see such incredible support come from around the world for them."

While legal and diplomatic efforts are currently underway to free Greyson and Loubani, the public and very high-profile TIFF declaration is designed to expedite the process by drawing attention to Greyson and Loubani's predicament. The festival press event goes hand-in-hand with a concerted online effort to help their cause that includes a Change.org petition that has garnered over 110,000 signatures. Those in attendance hope to get the petition to over 150,000 signatures by the end of the festival.

Greyson's sister Cecilia said she was overwhelmed by the huge outpouring of support.

"It's amazing to see," Greyson said. "I think it speaks a lot to who John and Tarek are as individuals."

You can learn more about John Greyson and Tarek Loubani's situation at TarekandJohn.com

More TIFF Features on Yahoo:

Get vitamins here. Change lives everywhere.

For kids like Rosemary, proper nutrition makes a big difference. See how you can help kids everywhere just by buying your vitamins at Walgreens.

Over 100 Million Items to Choose From at Sears

Save On Top Brands and Shop Everything From Appliances, Apparel, Lawn and Garden, Tools and more. 1 store Over 100 million items. It s all at Sears!

Insane Navy Seal Flashlight, should it be banned?

The Military has recently released technology that is now available to the public. Get yours before they run out - Limited Supply!

The Payday Loan Killer: Lending Product Solution

$25,000 for $494/mo, 5 yr repayment, $0 down payment. No obligation quotes. Get up to 5 offers in minutes. Quotes are free! Start loan request now.

Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

You can save $7,500 in tuition when you start classes Feb 29. Request information today!

File your taxes for $0

TurboTax announces Absolute Zero is back. $0 Fed. $0 State. $0 to File. Get your maximum refund, guaranteed. Federal Free Edition.

Starwood Credit Card

Earn 25,000 Bonus Starpoints®! Use toward Award Nights or Flights.

Get Your Bachelor's And Change Your Life!

With more that 230 programs, Liberty University Online has the flexibility to help you earn your Bachelor's online. Get started today!

Shift into High Gear

Get the training you need for a career you ll love. Click here to learn more about MMI.

Banks Are Worried Homeowners Will Do This

Before paying this month's mortgage payment, see this. The Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) may be better for you than for your bank.

Don't Buy Medigap Plan F Until You Read This

Medicare Supplement Plan F is the most popular plan, but there's another plan option you should consider.

VA Mortgage Rates In 2016

VA Rates as Low as 2.75% (3.028% APR) 15 Year Fixed. Exclusive For Veteran & Military Takes 1 Min!

Banks Are Worried Homeowners Will Do This.

Homeowners are surprised and furious. If you owe less than $625,000 on your home, you better read this.

How Older Men Tighten Their Skin

Men, reduce the look of wrinkles, sagging skin and fine lines with this affordable and effective skin tightening treatment without leaving your home.