Iran,  Israel

Ken Loach pulls film from Iranian festival

British filmmaker Ken Loach has withdrawn his movie Looking for Eric from this year’s Fajr festival in Tehran.

The Independent reports that Loach and theater director Peter Brook “are among leading Western artistic figures who have informed the Islamic regime they are pulling out in protest at its brutal crackdown on the opposition, which includes torture, prison rapes, countless killings and Stalinist-style televised show trials of reformists.”

According to The Independent:

The boycott is a response to a plea by Iranian artists. A joint statement from Iranian cinematographers, playwrights and actors, unsigned to protect those still working in the country, had circulated in recent weeks urging their foreign counterparts to stay away from Tehran to avoid conferring respectability on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government. “Your presence in this year’s Fajr festival will be akin to ignoring the struggles of oppressed people of Iran for their rights,” the statement said. A number of leading Iranian cinema figures including Abbas Kiarosami have already turned down invitations to be on the festival’s jury.

Loach wrote to the festival organizers:

We wish to withdraw our film Looking for Eric from the Tehran Film Festival. We recognise that many governments, including our own, have committed acts of aggression, broken international law and ignored human rights. However, this boycott is called for by Iranian film makers and artists to protest against the violence against those who oppose the regime and the many abuses of human rights documented by respected bodies like Amnesty. We support this boycott as we support the boycott of cultural events sponsored by the Israeli state. We regret the difficulties this will cause the festival’s organisers.

Harry’s Place readers will remember how Loach last year tried to use film festivals as a means to attack Israel. (See here, here and here.)

He claims to have pulled his movie from the Iranian festival because because of a call by Iranian filmmakers and artists. But of course there was no similar call by Israeli filmmakers to boycott festivals that received funding from the government of Israel.

(Hat tip: More Media Nonsense)

habibi adds: we covered Loach’s “understandable” remarks in May 2009. At a “Russell Tribunal on Palestine” meeting in Brussels, he said this about rising antisemitism in Europe:

“If there has been a rise I am not surprised. In fact, it is perfectly understandable because Israel feeds feelings of anti-Semitism.”

Here is a video of the meeting, where he says:

“Nothing has been a greater instigator of anti-Semitism than the self-proclaimed Jewish state itself. Until we deal with that, until that is acknowledged, then racism, I’m afraid, will be with us.”

So if people are racist or bigoted towards blacks or Muslims, for example, well, what can be done? There are so many black criminals and Muslim terrorists, don’t you know.

At the meeting, he also dismissed an Austrian human rights group’s report on antisemitism in Europe as a devious ploy:

But the director, who has spoken out against Israel in the past, branded the report as a “red herring” designed to “distract attention” from Israel’s recent military actions.