Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ken Loach and the Jerusalem International Film Festival

When I was perusing the site of the Jerusalem International Film Festival, which is starting next Thursday (July 4) and ending on July 13, I noticed that a film by Ken Loach, the British director, will be screened: "The Spirit of '45." It will be shown twice, on July 11 at 4 pm and on July 12 at 8 pm. I was quite surprised to notice that his film will be screened at the festival, since he has signed on to the international boycott campaign against Israel. In 2006, he wrote, in a statement published on the Electronic Intifada website: 
I support the call by Palestinian film-makers, artists and others to boycott state sponsored Israeli cultural institutions and urge others to join their campaign. 
Palestinians are driven to call for this boycott after forty years of the occupation of their land, destruction of their homes and the kidnapping and murder of their civilians.
They have no immediate hope that this oppression will end. 
As British citizens we have to acknowledge our own responsibility. We must condemn the British and US governments for supporting and arming Israel. We must also oppose the terrorist activities of the British and US governments in pursuing their illegal wars and occupations. 
However, it is impossible to ignore the appeals of Palestinian comrades. 
Consequently, I would decline any invitation to the Haifa Film Festival or other such occasions. 
Best Wishes, 
Ken Loach
In 2009, he withdrew a film of his from the Melbourne international film festival, "following our discovery that the festival was part-sponsored by the Israeli state." He wrote (together with the producer and screenwriter of the film): "We feel duty bound to take advice from those living at the sharp end inside the occupied territories. We would also encourage other filmmakers and actors invited to festivals to check for Israeli state backing before attending, and if so, to respect the boycott. Israeli filmmakers are not the target. State involvement is."

I wonder if he is aware that his film is scheduled to be shown in a couple of weeks in the Jerusalem International Film Festival? The festival is certainly sponsored by the Israeli state, in the sense that it is partially state funded. One year when I went to the opening film, the surprise guest of honor was Shimon Peres, the president of Israel.

Or is it possible that he has changed his mind and decided that the BDS movement is a waste of energy and that it will never change Israeli policy? One can only hope.

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