Thursday 21 May 2009

Festival surrenders to boycott blackmail

With apologies to Keith Olbermann: this blog's Worst Person of the Week Award goes to film director Ken Loach, who has blackmailed the Edinburgh Film Festival into refusing a grant from the Israeli embassy.

The donation, a small matter of around £300, was not a direct contribution to the funding of the festival, but would have paid the travel costs of young Israeli film-maker Tali Shalom Ezer. Nevertheless, after an approach from the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Loach used his considerable influence to threaten to organise a boycott of the festival if the cash wasn't handed back.

The EIFF had previously resisted a mass e-mail campaign by the SPSC, arguing that to refuse funding from one country would set a dangerous precedent and risk politicising its artistic mission, but Loach's intervention brought about a u-turn, and led to this cowardly statement from the organisers:

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.

Sir Jeremy Isaacs, the former chief executive of Channel 4, has said that he is 'horrified' by the festival organisers' acceptance of Ken Loach's claim to speak on behalf of all British film-makers, and has described Loach's intervention as an act of censorship:

Ken Loach has always been critical of censorship of his own work, albeit it was many years in the past. The idea that he should lend himself to the denial of a film-maker’s right to show her work is absolutely appalling.

In its report of the affair, the Scotsman describes Loach as someone who is 'well known for his support of Palestinian rights'. It doesn't mention that he is a member of the national council of the SWP/Islamist front organisation, Respect, nor that he is notorious for saying he was 'not surprised' at the recent upsurge in antisemitism, which he blamed on Israel. Renowned film-maker he may be, but his politics have always been naive and simplistic (he's a kind of John Pilger of the cinema): his 1984 film about the miners' strike, Which Side Are You On?, suggested that the only choices available were Thatcherism or Scargill's Stalinist demagoguery.

As for the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, any claim it might make to be a high-minded supporter of human rights in the Middle East has been compromised by its support for anti-Jewish violence and its palling around with spokesmen for racist terror groups.

Ken Loach's bullying of the Edinburgh International Film Festival is enough to make me want to boycott his films from now on. But I won't. Unlike him, I detest political censorship and believe in freedom of artistic expression.

(Via Mick)

More reaction over at The Daily Kos.

No comments: