Film-maker's balanced Israel documentary causes anger in Ireland

An Irish film-maker has explained how his documentary about Israel and the Palestinians caused outrage in his home country — by taking a balanced view on the conflict.

Nicky Larkin said the backlash to Forty Shades of Grey had been driven by the level of anti-Israel fervour in Ireland. Anti-Israel activists have dismissed his work as “pure pro-Israel propaganda” and a “whitewash”.

The 28-year-old received £26,000 from the Irish Arts Council to make the film, which includes interviews with Israelis who question their government’s policies, Palestinians who reject terror and violence, plus hardliners on both sides.

Mr Larkin said he had been “quite pro-Palestinian”, following Operation Cast Lead, and believed that his backers were under the false impression that he would return home with a documentary that was “the usual Irish arts thing… a big anti-Israel rant”.

He said: “The film is pretty even-handed, but in Ireland you are not meant to give Israelis a voice. The Arts Council expected something from me that they did not get and they’re not happy about it. They can’t ask for the money back but anti-Israel activists have told the council it has to do something. But they will have to shut up and swallow it.”

There was a furious reaction from anti-Israel activists following the film’s premiere in Dublin a fortnight ago. Composer Raymond Deane, a prominent supporter of the calls for boycott against Israel, led the attacks on Mr Larkin, calling him “gullible”. The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign labelled Mr Larkin “an Israeli apartheid apologist”.

Mr Deane is one of dozens of IPSC supporters who have received funding from the Arts Council in recent years. He has benefited from at least £76,000 in the past five years.

Mr Larkin hit back by claiming many of the anti-Israel activists had only backed the Palestinian cause to curry favour with the Arts Council and further their careers.

But he said there had been positive responses: “I was not expecting some of the support I got from Irish people. Raymond Deane and the IPSC have created such an anti-Israel atmosphere that people feel they have to join in.

"It is not the done thing to say you are a Zionist or you support the Israelis, but I have had a lot of private support. It’s sad that people are afraid to come out and openly show their support.

“A lot of Irish journalists started writing about the film and asking why so many Irish people are anti-Israel without looking at it properly. The IPSC has been getting some real hammering. In the last couple of months I’ve sensed a turnaround. The IPSC has lost a lot of support and credibility.”

The Irish Arts Council declined to comment on the reaction to Mr Larkin’s film, which he showed to an audience of 300 at Finchley United Synagogue on Tuesday evening.

Last updated: 3:05pm, June 15 2012