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British director withdraws festival film

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SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — A British director has withdrawn his film from an international festival because it receives funding from the Israeli government.

Ken Loach on Friday followed through on a threat to pull his film “Looking For Eric” from the Melbourne International Film Festival as a protest against “illegal occupation of Palestinian land, destruction of homes and livelihoods [and] the massacres in Gaza.”

Loach with the same ultimatum had prompted the Edinburgh International Film Festival in May to return a grant that was to help fund the visit of an Israeli filmmaker. But the Australian festival’s chief executive, Richard Moore, was unequivocal in his response to Loach, whose film had sold out for its scheduled July 30 screening at the festival.

“It’s like submitting to blackmail,” Moore said Friday.

“MIFF understands that that this issue is a particularly emotional one for people, but 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 long-standing historical disputes.”

The Israeli Embassy in Canberra is helping sponsor the visit of Tatia Rosenthal, the director of “$9.99,” a stop-motion animation based on the short stories of award-winning Israeli author Etgar Keret. The embassy has been funding the festival for years, according to a spokesman.

Moore noted that many of Loach’s previous films have been screened at the festival.

Federal lawmaker Michael Danby blasted Loach’s tactics.

“Israelis and Australians have always had a lot in common, including contempt for the irritating British penchant for claiming cultural superiority." he said. "Melbourne is a very different place to Londonistan.”

Palestinian activists in Melbourne said they would distribute propaganda throughout the July 24-Aug. 9 festival denouncing the organizers for receiving funds from the Israeli government.

Moore pointed out that the festival this year includes “Young Freud In Gaza,” about a young Palestinian psychiatrist dealing with the trauma faced by Palestinians living under occupation.
 

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