How Dare You, Ken!

Saturday, 30 May 2009
The Independent

Ken Loach has endorsed a threat to boycott the Edinburgh Film Festival over an Israeli film. Fellow director Gary Sinyor cries foul.

The Edinburgh Film Festival holds a special place in my heart. It was where the world premiere of Leon the Pig Farmer took place. Nervous beyond words, paranoid that no one would buy tickets, we walked through the doors of the Film House. The place was packed to the rafters; the film went down a storm, and a couple of days later, Vadim Jean and I were the proud recipients of an engraved heavy chunk of metal ““ the Charles Chaplin Award. Winning in Venice a week later was stylish, but nothing compared to that first, surprising, Scottish accolade.

Related articles – Director hands back award in protest at Loach

Yet today, I am writing to the Edinburgh Film Festival and asking for my name to be taken off their records. I am removing Winner, Best British Film, Edinburgh 1992 from my CV. If I could cut the award in half and send half back I would. And here’s why.

Last week, The Scotsman printed a story about an Israeli film invited to Edinburgh for this year’s festival. The Israeli embassy had agreed to pay ‚ £300 for the director, Tali Shalom Ezer, to fly over. Festivals are often strapped for cash and so government bodies step in and help out.

There doesn’t seem to be any dispute about what happened next. A Palestinian campaign group called Socialist Unity launched a campaign to have the money returned ““ or else it would boycott the whole festival. EIFF managing director Ginnie Atkinson told them where to get off in a strong and coherent statement (according to The Scotsman) in which she said not accepting support from one particular country “would set a dangerous precedent by politicising a cultural and artistic mission”.

So far, so much agreement. Enter Ken Loach.

Ken Loach took it upon himself publicly to endorse the boycott of the entire Edinburgh Film Festival. And hey presto! The EIFF suddenly decided to give the money back to the Israeli embassy. According to The Scotsman, the EIFF said: “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.”

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