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Everyone loves a boycott!

July 17, 2009 – 1:55 am6 Comments

kenloachBy The Hasid

Nothing like a hot coffee, a bagel, the AJN and news of a fresh cultural boycott to start one’s day, right?

Yes, dear readers, it’s that time of year again – MIFF! As British director Ken Loach has realised (he of the literally unintelligible My Name is Joe*), there is no better vehicle for really annoying, pointless political protest than an international film festival. All the requisite ingredients are there: various films from various middle-Eastern/African/Asian countries, pontificating intellectual filmmakers and filmgoers (er, myself included), the press… and of course: ‘contentious’ funding.

Here’s an excerpt from the AJN article, which sums up the whole fiasco quite nicely:

In a letter addressed to festival director Richard Moore, a keen supporter of Israeli films, Loach cited Israel’s “illegal occupation of Palestinian land, destruction of homes and livelihoods” and “the massacres in Gaza” as his reasons for boycotting the festival, which gets underway on July 24.

The letter was co-signed by the film’s writer Paul Laverty and producer Rebecca O’Brien.

Earlier this month, an open letter from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel was sent to MIFF organisers urging them not to accept funding from the Israeli government. In the letter, Loach was listed as one of the filmmakers who had expressed support for the boycott.

Earlier this year, Loach successfully lobbied the Edinburgh Film Festival to return a grant from the Israeli embassy, which was intended to help Israeli filmmaker Tali Shalow Ezer get her film shown at the prestigious festival.

Loach wrote in his letter to Moore: “This is not a boycott of independent Israeli films or filmmakers, but of the Israeli State.”

Wow, Ken! Really? The state of Israel is that much of a presence at the Melbourne International Film Festival? What next? You’ll no longer be frequenting your local Chinese restaurant because of the situation in Tibet / exploitation of children / shoddy construction standards in earthquake-prone regions? (Good. You need to lay off the MSG.) (OK. Chinese takeaway does not equal Israeli movie at MIFF. But you know what I mean.)

Enough sarcasm. I get where Ken’s coming from, even though I disagree with him. I’m crapped off about a lot of what’s happening in Israel, too. I want a country for Jews and a country for Palestinians. I want real, meaningful, lasting peace. That, in a nutshell, is a very superficial, early-morning run-down of my political proclivities.

But surely, anyone with a bit of saykhl** knows that boycotting a film (or a writer, or an acadmic) is not going to achieve anything. Even if that filmmaker’s efforts may be partially funded by a government whose practices one may find morally questionable. (Special shout out to every film about Aboriginal people ever made in Australia with Australian government funding, ever!)

Surely Ken Loach knows that the Israeli government funds films by Israelis and Palestinians; Christians, Jews and Muslims. Surely Ken Loach knows that art (films! music! visuals! writing!) is one of the most enduring and effective ways to change the way people think and understand the world, for the better. Surely Ken Loach knows that Israeli films submitted to international festivals are unlikely to be pushing an uber-right-wing agenda; but rather encouraging a more nuanced, complex understanding of contemporary Israeli life.

Ach. Why, why, why?

[Hasid claps hand to forehead in frustration]

Let’s hope that the MIFF committee and everyone else leaves Loach’s proposal well enough alone, where it belongs.

A gitn shabbes and happy weekend to all.

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* Below the belt? Perhaps. But that’s 105 minutes of my life I can NEVER GET BACK. Note to self: run for the hills when you hear the words “gritty realist Glaswegian drama”. RUN.

** saykhl = commonsense

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