Loach forces audience against Israeli film-maker
Ken Loach has been calling for film fans to boycott an Israeli film showing at the Edinburgh International Film Festival this year, however he's at pains to point out that he's not actually against the film-maker.
His words have resulted in a donation from the Israeli Embassy to the EIFF to be returned, and both the film-maker and the Israeli embassy have hit back at the Festival's actions and Loach's comments.
Surrogate marks Shalom-Ezer's first publicly released film and is arriving in Israeli cinemas next week. However it's also due to be shown at the Edinburgh International Film Festival next month, and when the EIFF accepted £300 from the Israeli Embassy Ken Loach was outraged.
Loach said that the money transfer was, in effect, supporting Israel and said through The Scotsman that:
"...massacres and state terrorism in Gaza make this money unacceptable."
It was at this point that the EIFF returned the £300 to the Embassy. Yet the controversy didn't stop there as Shalom-Ezer stated that Ken Loach's comments portrayed her, and Israeli people, in a very poor light:
"Generalising all citizens of Israel as warmongers and racists is racism and outrageous, and as members of the peace camp we are personally hurt by it."
Loach spoke from Cannes on the matter and insisted that he wasn't being racist with his comments nor was he singling out film-makers, in fact he's saying that he supports them in any way he can, except of course in this case.
"The position of those who organise the cultural boycott against the Israeli state are pleased to support individual filmmakers in any way they can. We all know that Tali Shalom-Ezer is more than welcome to come."
Shalom-Ezer hits the nail on the head thought when you put her nationality to the side for the moment when she says:
"He has created a situation in which going to see Surrogate means supporting the state of Israel. He has made this connection."
The Israeli Embassy themselves have even commented on the matter, and none too lightly either.
"This sheds a very unpleasant light on those promoting the festival. This decision was not taken because of anything Tali Shalom-Ezer did, but for what she is."
Add to the fray the fact that the film doesn't appear to be about politics or the situation between Israel and Palestine and the discussion gets even more difficult. Here's the blurb for the film:
"Eli is a 32 year old man who has problems with relationships with women. Hagar is a surrogate, an alternative partner for practical, sexual therapy. They meet once a week and practice a relationship and intimacy in laboratory conditions. The fictitious relationship between them exposes them both physically and emotionally and brings to surface repressed fears from the real world. The changes Eli goes through during the therapy, along with the secrets revealed, not only shake his own life, but also the life of his family. Between clinic walls, due to an "artificial" process, Eli learns how to love for the first time."
I really don't envy the people who have to deal with this situation in the background, because for them, the film-maker and their cast and crew, and for the film fans wanting to see Surrogate at the Film Festival it's not about the politics over in Israel, it's about the film. At least I would hope that's the case.
Loach's comments can't help but be against the film-maker, the film, and their nationality, and there is no way he can support them and their film, and yet tell audiences to stay away from it. Frankly I don't understand how he expects that to work.
Update: I've now actually reviewed Surrogate, which you can read right here on Filmstalker, and I loved it.
Filmstalker at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2009