Loach Stirs Up Controversy At Another Festival
Director Ken Loach has pulled Looking for Eric , his well-received entry at the Cannes Film Festival, out of the Melbourne Film Festival, complaining that he cannot contribute to any event that accepts funding from Israel. (Israel had provided airfare for director Tatia Rosenthal, whose film 9.99 is being screened in Melbourne.) Festival director Richard Moore said that he would not consider Loach's demands. In an interview with Radio Australia, he said "I refused to withdraw that funding from the state of Israel because what I think he is doing is a form of cultural blackmail, and he decided therefore to withdraw his film." Last week, the festival faced a similar protest when Chinese officials demanded that it cancel the screening of The 10 Conditions of Love, a documentary about the plight of minority Uighurs in China. When Moore refused, the Chinese, in apparent retaliation, withdrew the three Chinese films that had been scheduled to be screened in Melbourne. The controversies have brought the festival a raft of unexpected publicity. "Films dropping out at the last moment is not particularly good from an organizational perspective," Moore said, "but I have to say ... sales are going strongly." Meanwhile, the government of Saudi Arabia on Monday shut down the fourth annual Jedda Film Festival, which was to have opened on Saturday. The shut-down was depicted as a victory for religious hardliners in a country where movie theaters are banned.