Ken Loach: reaction to Israeli film donations row

Film director Ken Loach, a supporter of the Israeli film boycott, has criticised the chief executive of Israel’s leading film distribution company, who, he claims, did not inform him that his latest film would be shown at the Haifa Film Festival.

Mr Loach has frequently attacked Israel’s action in Gaza and was among the high - profile figures urging organisers of the Toronto Film Festival to drop a celebration of Tel Aviv last month.

Earlier this month, Nurit Shani, CEO of Lev Cinemas and Films, announced that all the profits from the Israel distribution of Mr Loach's latest film, Looking for Eric, and his next film, would be dedicated to promoting Israeli films in Israel and around the world.

But Mr Loach has now said that Ms Shani did not inform the makers of Looking for Eric, a comedy about a fan of the former Manchester United footballer, Eric Cantona, that it would be screened at the festival.

In a letter signed by Mr Loach, the film’s writer Paul Laverty and producer Rebecca O'Brien, the filmmakers said: “It is not often we hear of bosses voluntarily sharing profits, so it was with some delight we heard the good news Nurit Shani will use the profits from our film Looking for Eric to benefit Israeli film - makers.

“We hope this new - found determination to redistribute wealth will be matched by her wisdom in choosing to support those film-makers most starved of resources. Logically, that would mean those brave free spirits in the Israeli artistic community who decide to respect the cultural boycott and refuse to accept any funds from the Israeli state.

“Who knows, but perhaps some time in the future Nurit Shani's vision will help kick-start projects about those courageous Israeli soldiers who formed the group, Breaking the Silence, and spoke out against the "reckless and gratuitous use of white phosphorous" in civilian areas in Gaza, and were appalled by the use of Palestinians as human shields?

“Perhaps, too, we will be fortunate to watch films about those young men and women in Israeli prisons who refuse to join the Israeli army because of the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands. And why not include Palestinian film makers— or is Israel really an apartheid state?

“Unfortunately Nurit Shani's new-found generosity is not matched by her good manners.

“It is a long established tradition that film makers are invited, or at least informed by the distributors, if their film is invited to a festival. We were not told that Looking for Eric was invited to the Haifa film festival until after the event.

“Maybe this is because of our joint decision to respect the cultural boycott of projects supported by the Israeli state and called for by Palestinian artists, writers and grassroot organisations.”

Last updated: 4:54pm, October 15 2009