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Ken Loach’s Bullying Ghastliness

19 May 2009

1:47 PM

19 May 2009

1:47 PM

This is normally Melanie’s territory and it is disgraceful. The chain of events seems to be this:

1. The Edinburgh International Film Festival invites Israeli film-maker Tali Shalom-Ezer to show his her* short film Surrogate in Edinburgh.
2. The Israeli Embassy in London contributes £300 to help pay for Shalom-Ezer to come to the Scottlnd.
3. The so-called Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign objects to this and threatens to picket the festival.
4. EIFF says, "do your worst".
5. SPSC do just that, recruiting Ken Loach who calls for a boycott of the festival.
6. EIFF caves and returns the donation to the Israelis.

The sum involved is, of course, trivial. What is objectionable is the behaviour of EIFF who’ve succumbed to Loach’s bullying. Here’s the key bit:

Mr Loach released a statement through the SPSC which read: "I’m sure many film-makers will be as horrified as I am to learn the Edinburgh International Film Festival is accepting money from Israel. The massacres and state terrorism in Gaza make this money unacceptable. With regret, I must urge all who might consider visiting the festival to show their support for the Palestinian nation and stay away."

The following day the EIFF – which has since been in talks with Mr Loach – did a U-turn. It said: "The EIFF are firm believers in free cultural exchange and do not wish to restrict film-makers’ abilities to communicate artistically with international audiences on the basis that they come from a troubled regime.

"Although the festival is considered wholly cultural and apolitical, we consider the opinions of the film industry as a whole and, as such, accept that one film-maker’s recent statement speaks on behalf of the film community, therefore we will be returning the funding issued by the Israeli embassy."

Loach, naturally, is talking through his hat. Worse, however is the attitude displayed by EIFF. Now I know some of the people involved at EIFF and know that they’re good people. And I can understand that, from the festival’s point of view, Ken Loach matters much more than does an Israeli film-maker (whose film will at least still be shown). But still, this is terribly feeble, not least because EIFF seems to accept Loach’s presumptious declaration that he somehow "speaks for" the "film community" when, quite obviously, he does no such thing.

Not that Loach is any kind of model of consistency. After all, as the Scotsman points out in its editorial today, he’s quite happy for his latest film to be entered into competition at Cannes – alongside several Israeli movies.

*Initial error now corrected.

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