Film festival rejects Israel boycott call

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — An international film festival rejected calls by Palestinian activists to sever ties with Israeli films and sponsorship.

Melbourne International Film Festival chief executive Richard Moore, responding to an open letter by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, said that films for the festival are not selected on political criteria but on artistic merit.

Moore cited “Young Freud in Gaza,” about a psychotherapist dealing with the trauma of victims of the Mideast conflict, which will be screened at Australia’s largest film festival between July 24 and Aug. 9.

“I’m not going to engage with this issue,” he said. “I’ll leave it to audiences to make up their own minds.”

The activists’ letter called on the festival ”not to accept blood money” from Israel. It said Israel’s sponsorship of the festival “would be tantamount to an implicit endorsement of the war crimes it [Israel] has committed and is still committing in Gaza.

For years the Israeli Embassy in Canberra has supported cultural festivals across Australia, an embassy spokesman told JTA. The spokesman said the embassy was helping with funding to bring Israeli-born director Tatia Rosenthal to Melbourne for the premiere of “$9.99,” the first Israeli-Australian film co-production.

“$9.99,” directed by Rosenthal, is based on award-winning author Etgar Keret’s short stories. The embassy is organizing a red carpet event in Melbourne for Aug. 4.

Moore rejected a threat by prominent British filmmaker Ken Loach to withdraw his film “Looking For Eric” unless the film festival severs ties with Israel.

"We will not participate in a boycott against the State of Israel, just as we would not contemplate boycotting films from China or other nations involved in difficult, longstanding historical disputes,” he said.

Loach prompted the Edinburgh Film Festival in May to return a grant to the Israeli Embassy.
 

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