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PACBI-Standout British filmmaker joins boycott of Israel

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The Daily Star | August 29, 2006

Standout British filmmaker joins boycott of Israel

BEIRUT: Ken Loach, the critically acclaimed British filmmaker who won the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival, has lent his support to the cultural boycott of Israel, according to a personal statement issued late last week. Loach's statement comes after 100 Palestinian cultural activists and film professionals issued an international call to artists and directors to back an academic and cultural boycott of Israel - which means declining participation in Israeli film festivals, cultural institutions or arts initiatives that are either state-sponsored or do not take a clear stand against the Israeli occupation and alleged war crimes in Lebanon and Gaza.

The umbrella organization that has initiated the boycott, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, likens its action to the boycott of South African arts events during the apartheid era.

In his statement, Loach writes: "I support the call by Palestinian filmmakers, artists and others to boycott state-sponsored Israeli cultural institutions and urge others to do join their campaign. Palestinians are driven to call for this boycott after 40 years of the occupation of their land, destruction of their homes and the kidnapping and murder of their civilians. They have no immediate hope that this oppression will end."

Loach‘s call also comes on the heels of an open letter signed by 18 writers expressing outrage against what is described, at root, as "a long-term military, economic and geographic practice whose political aim is nothing less than the liquidation of the Palestinian nation."

Among the signatories are Harold Pinter, Jose Saramago, Arundhati Roy, Gore Vidal, Russell Banks, Thomas Keneally and Toni Morrison. The letter, which ends with a PS quoting from Juliano Mer Khamis‘ documentary "Arna‘s Children" - "Who is going to paint the ‘Guernica‘ of Lebanon?" - has been published in Le Monde, El Pais, The Independent, La Repubblica and The Nation.

Loach‘s statement ends with an announcement that he will decline an invitation to this year‘s Haifa Film Festival, extended to him a few weeks ago, "or any such occasion."

Already, the Lussas Documentary Film Festival in France, which was scheduled to present a series on Israeli documentary cinema, cancelled the screenings. And the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland dropped the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a co-sponsor of one of its programs.

Loach won the Palme d‘Or for "The Wind that Shakes the Barley," set in the Irish War for Independence. He is one of the UK‘s most controversial directors, in no small part because he is a die-hard leftist. Previous films include "My Name is Joe," "Bread and Roses," "Hidden Agenda" (which examined the British government‘s "shoot to kill" policy during its troubles with the IRA) and "Land and Freedom" (which explored the political rhetoric at play during the Spanish Civil War and offers probably as complex and critical an insight into notions of resistance as Jean-Luc Godards‘ "Ici et Ailleurs," about Palestinian fighters in the early 1970s) "Hidden Agenda" and "Land and Freedom" won smaller awards at Cannes. - The Daily Star

Posted on 29-08-2006

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