Ken Loach says income from Israel screenings will fund BDS
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Ken Loach says income from Israel screenings will fund BDS

Hitting back at criticism that he exempts himself from boycott, UK filmmaker says he has ‘always respected’ shunning Israel

British filmmaker Ken Loach seen during an interview with the UK's Channel 4 News in October 2016. (Screen capture: YouTube)
British filmmaker Ken Loach seen during an interview with the UK's Channel 4 News in October 2016. (Screen capture: YouTube)

British director Ken Loach denied that his calls for a cultural boycott of Israel were hypocritical, saying that “every penny” from Israeli screenings of his films would go toward the anti-Israel boycott movement, with his producer asserting that the Israeli deal was made mistakenly.

“We will guarantee that every penny from the sale of I, Daniel Blake that comes to Sixteen Films or the sales company from the Israeli distributors will go to grassroots Palestinian organisations fighting oppression, after consultation with the BDS movement,” Loach wrote in a letter to The Guardian Tuesday, along with screenwriter Paul Laverty and his producer Rebecca O’Brien.

“We have always respected this appeal [for boycotts] and have encouraged other people working in the arts to do the same. We reject the allegation that any of us have exempted ourselves from the cultural boycott,” the trio added.

Loach’s letter came in response to a story last week by the British daily in which his Israeli distributor Guy Shani said that the filmmaker has been showing his movies in the Jewish state for years, despite Loach calling on others not to do so.

“It is a conundrum that has puzzled me too. It seems that Ken Loach feels himself exempt from the cultural boycott,” Shani told The Guardian.

Shani, who owns Shani Films and Israel’s Lev movie theater chain, said that he had purchased the rights to show Loach’s films in the country for over 20 years, despite the director’s anti-Israel stance, and had never heard any grumbling from the filmmaker.

Film director Ken Loach speaks at a rally for workers' rights in London (CC BY 2.0 Bryce Edwards via Wikimedia Commons)
Film director Ken Loach speaks at a rally for workers’ rights in London (CC BY 2.0 Bryce Edwards via Wikimedia Commons)

Loach’s producer O’Brien denied Shani’s assertion that Loach exempts himself from boycotting Israel, telling The Guardian that the director’s most recent film was “accidentally” allowed to be shown in Israel.

“We have asked Wild Bunch before not to sell to Israel,” O’Brien said. “But what happened this time – and what has happened before – is that during Cannes, things happen very fast and a junior member of the company went and sold it to Israel in the heat of the moment, forgetting we had asked for it not to be sold there.”

O’Brien also said that while “mistakes have been made,” the fault did not lie with Loach himself, who has “no influence” over where his movies are shown.

“We have no influence over it at the time – we just say: ‘Do your job, sell the film,’ and then in retrospect we realized: ‘Oh God, the film has been sold to Israel, that’s really bad.’ We’re pissed off with them but once you’ve sold it you can’t backtrack,” she said.

Loach’s name was in the news after he got into an argument last week on Twitter with Radiohead’s Thom Yorke over the band’s concert Wednesday in Israel.

The spat started when Loach tweeted last Tuesday that “Radiohead need to decide if they stand with the oppressed or the oppressor. The choice is simple.”

But Yorke defended his stance, saying, “Playing in a country isn’t the same as endorsing its government. We’ve played in Israel for over 20 years through a succession of governments, some more liberal than others. As we have in America.”

In addition to calling for boycotts of Israel, Loach has defended Ken Livingstone, saying that anger at the controversial ex-mayor of London over his remarks that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler helped German Jews move to pre-state Israel “before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews” amounted to a “witch hunt.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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