Melbourne Film Festival ignores activists

July 18, 2009 by J-Wire
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The Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) has rejected calls by Palestinian activists not to accept “blood money” from the Israel Government.

MIFF chief executive Richard Moore said that films for the festival, which begins next week, are not selected on political criteria but on artistic merit. He cited “Young Freud in Gaza,” about a psychotherapist dealing with the trauma of victims of the Mid-East conflict, which is screening at Australia’s largest film festival between July 24 and August 9.

“I’m not going to engage with this issue,” Moore said. “I’ll leave it to audiences to make up their own minds.”

He was responding to an open letter by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, which said sponsorship of the festival by Israel “would be tantamount to an implicit endorsement of the war crimes it [Israel] has committed and is still committing in Gaza.”

The Israeli Embassy in Canberra has for years supported cultural festivals across Australia, a spokesman said. He added the embassy was helping with funding to bring Israeli-born director Tatia Rosenthal to Melbourne for the premiere of “$9.99,” the first ever Israeli-Australian film co-production.

“$9.99,” directed by Rosenthal, is based on award-winning author Etgar Keret’s short stories. The embassy is organizing a red carpet event in Melbourne for August 4.

Meanwhile, prominent British filmmaker Ken Loach has threatened to withdraw his film “Looking For Eric” unless MIFF severs ties with Israel.

But Moore rejected Loach’s threat. “We will not participate in a boycott against the State of Israel, just as we would not contemplate boycotting films from China or other nations involved in difficult longstanding historical disputes,” he said.

Loach prompted the Edinburgh Film Festival in May to return a grant to the Israeli Embassy.

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