By Jenni Frazer
October 18, 2010
"I cannot come, I do not want to come, and I am not coming".
Shan't. Won't. Kick furniture.
Thus the exceptionally mature film-maker Mike Leigh, explaining to the director of the Sam Spiegel School of Film and Television in Jerusalem, Ranan Shor, why he won't be going to Israel next week.
Leigh was due to be holding a film workshop for the students, and receiving an honorary doctorate from the film school during a week in Jerusalem. Built in to his programme was an opportunity to spend time with Palestinian film-makers in Jenin, and a press conference in which he had been invited to say whatever he wanted, critical of Israel.
In an overheated tirade giving his reasons for not making the trip (by the way, he's found time to go to Dublin instead), Leigh complained bitterly that he should have cancelled when the attack on the Gaza flotilla took place, a mere eight weeks (!) after he and Shor fixed up the arrangements. Goodness, how crass of the Israelis to wait eight whole weeks before giving Leigh an excuse to cancel.
Because it seems to me that this is what it is, an excuse (and a rather well-publicised one, at that). Piling Pelion on Ossa, Leigh ticks off black marks against Israel: settlements, building, the flotilla, Gaza, and, the final straw, "and now, the Loyalty Oath."
Ranan Shor tells Leigh, quite reasonably, that the students of film at the Sam Spiegel School are not the Israeli government and should not be penalised because Leigh does not agree with its policies. He also says that Leigh's complaints would have a different resonance had he chosen to air them in Israel and the West Bank.
Well, perhaps. I think Leigh's legendary grouchiness is not an adornment to any country and Israel may perhaps count itself lucky that the "auteur" of Secrets and Lies has chosen to "thcream and thcream and thcream" until he is sick, from a safe distance. In my opinion, the Sam Spiegel students, though it may not seem so now, are better off without him.