Virulent anti-Israel critic Ken Loach recently chided rockers Radiohead for performing in Israel, while he regularly screens his own films there.
Notorious anti-Israel activist Ken Loach has been accused of shameful hypocrisy. While he regularly promotes the cultural boycott of Israel, he allows his films to be freely distributed in the Jewish state.
Loach vocally condemns artists who perform in Israel as supporting an “apartheid regime” and calls on others to boycott Israel. However, his latest film “I, Daniel Blake” is currently showing in Israeli cinemas. His producer Rebecca O’Brien claims it’s a “mistake,” saying the distribution company Wild Bunch made the deal “accidentally” and without the knowledge of Loach or his production company Sixteen Films.
The UK’s Guardian over the weekend reported that the touchy issue of Loach’s films being screened in Israel emerged after his condemnation of Radiohead’s decision to play a concert in Tel Aviv. Loach accused the band of supporting a system of apartheid by refusing to commit to the cultural boycott of Israel.
“We have asked Wild Bunch before not to sell to Israel,” O’Brien told the Guardian. “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.”
‘Mistake’ Excuse Dismissed as ‘Absurd’
Claims that Israeli distribution rights were sold “accidentally” were dismissed as “absurd” by Loach’s long-term Israeli distributor Guy Shani, the head of Shani Films and also the owner of Israel’s Lev cinema chain.
Shani told the Guardian he had known Loach and his producer for years, paying them money “every year,” without them ever voicing objections.
“Since 1993, when we bought ‘Raining Stones,’ we bought every film apart from two. We never faced any trouble buying and the audience at the Lev cinemas is very open-minded and believes in free speech. So he is punishing the wrong people or trying to,” Shani said.
“I can’t tell you how absurd this is. We’ve been showing his movies for years. I have been paying him money every year. His latest film, ‘I, Daniel Blake,’ has been really successful in Israel. So successful that we had some private events with Israeli government institutions where they booked the film to show to employees because of interest in the subject,” Shani elaborated.
“It is a conundrum that has puzzled me too. It seems that Ken Loach feels himself exempt from the cultural boycott,” Shani said, dismissing the notion that he would distribute a film in Israel over the director’s and producer’s objections.
“You don’t sell a film to someone a director doesn’t want a film sold to. It is a serious business. You have a list of regions and they approve country by country and then you need to get approval by producer and director. And if you have a relationship, a sales agent with a director who is really important to you, of course you don’t sell against their wishes,” Shani explained.
Loach has previously boycotted the Edinburgh film festival because another film sponsored by the Israeli embassy was on the program, and tried to withdraw from the Sydney film festival for similar reasons.
O’Brien conceded that this was not the first time that Loach’s films had been sold to Israeli film distributors. “It’s the second or third time it’s happened, which is most unfortunate,” she said. “But it’s because in the heat of the moment you’re not concentrating who you’re selling to: they just want to sell it to as many places as possible, as fast as possible and mistakes are made. 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.”
Vincent Maraval, head of Wild Bunch, in a tweet of Friday claimed that his company sold the film to Israel “against his [Loach’s] will.”
“Ken is seen to be the sinner in all of this but it’s me that put Ken in this difficult position by being sloppy,” O’Brien tried to explain, seemingly taking the blame for this incident, while ignoring the sale of previous Loach films in Israel.