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UK director pulls out of Melbourne film fest over Israel funding

July 20, 2009 7:20 P.M. (Updated: July 21, 2009 8:16 P.M.)
By: Jared
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – British director Ken Loach has withdrawn his film Looking for Eric from the Melbourne International Film Festival in protest of Israeli government funding.

In a letter to the festival director, Richard Moore, Loach, wrote that he was protesting not Israeli films or filmmakers, but Israel’s “illegal occupation of Palestinian land, destruction of homes and livelihoods,” according to The Age, a newspaper in Melbourne.

The Israeli funding he referred to was the Israeli Embassy's sponsorship of Tel Aviv-born animator Tatia Rosenthal’s visit the festival to answer questions about her feature $9.99.

Festival director Richard Moore refused Loach’s request, prompting the boycott. “It’s like submitting to blackmail,” he said, according to AFP.

In May BBC reported that the Edinburgh Film Festival had returned an Israeli grant for a filmmaker’s travel expenses after Mr. Loach called for a boycott.

Moore said films showing at the festival this year included Amreeka, which tells the story of a Palestinian family making its way in the rural US, by Palestinian-American filmmaker Cherien Dabis, and Young Freud In Gaza about a young psychiatrist dealing with the mental health issues of Palestinians living under occupation.

Moore said the festival understood that the Israeli-Palestinian issue was emotional, “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 longstanding historical disputes,” according to The Australian newspaper

The festival earlier this week rejected a demand from Chinese officials to dump a documentary about an exiled Uighur leader who they have branded a terrorist, The Australian said.

Many Palestinian academics and intellectuals have signed on to a letter urging their international colleagues to “comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions.”
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