Philippa Hawker, The Age, July 18, 2009 – ENGLISH filmmaker Ken Loach has withdrawn his film Looking for Eric from the Melbourne International Film Festival because the festival receives funding from the Israeli Government.
Loach told the festival if it did not reconsider the sponsorship, he would not allow the festival to screen his film.
In a letter to festival executive director Richard Moore, he said that “Palestinians, including artists and academics, have called for a boycott of events supported by Israel”. He cited “illegal occupation of Palestinian land, destruction of homes and livelihoods” and “the massacres in Gaza” as reasons for the boycott. It was, he said, aimed “not at independent Israeli films or filmmakers”, but at “the Israeli state”.
Mr Moore said he would not accede to the request: “I wouldn’t do it. The festival wouldn’t. It’s like submitting to blackmail.”
He said the Israeli Government had supported the festival in previous years and that it sponsored many cultural events in Australia. This year the initial sponsorship arrangement involved an airfare for a festival guest, filmmaker Tatia Rosenthal. Her animation, $9.99, is the first Israeli-Australian co-production feature.
Many films directed by Loach, 73, have screened at the festival. His 2006 work The Wind that Shakes the Barley won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
Looking for Eric is the tale of a Manchester postal worker who gets advice on life from Manchester United’s French soccer star Eric Cantona.
Earlier this year, Loach asked the Edinburgh Film Festival to reconsider Israeli Government sponsorship.
The festival decided not to accept funding from the Israeli Government that was to be used to bring filmmaker Tali Shalow Ezer to Edinburgh with her short film.
The festival begins on July 24.