Ken Loach calls for an Israel boycott, but perhaps not for his films

An English director known for advocating cultural boycotts of Israel came under fire from his Israeli distributor, who said that the filmmaker has been showing his movies in the Jewish state for years.

“It is a conundrum that has puzzled me too. It seems that Ken Loach feels himself exempt from the cultural boycott,” Guy Shani told The Guardian newspaper.

Shani, who owns Shani Films and Israel’s Lev movie theater chain, said that he has purchased the rights to show Loach’s films in the country for over 20 years despite the director’s anti-Israel stance and never heard any grumbling from the filmmaker.

“Since 1993, when we bought Raining Stones, we bought every film apart from two.

“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 said.

A scene from English director Ken Loach's film 'I, Daniel Blake.' (Screen capture: YouTube)

Shani also struck down the notion that he screened Loach’s films without the director’s consent.

“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,” he said. “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.”

A producer for Loach denied Shani’s assertion that Loach exempts himself from boycotting Israel, telling The Guardian that the director’s most recent film was “accidentally” allowed to be shown in Israel.

“We have asked Wild Bunch before not to sell to Israel,” Rebecca O’Brien said. “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.”

O’Brien also said that while “mistakes have been made,” the fault did not lie with Loach himself, who has “no influence” over where his movies are shown.

“We have no influence over it at the time – we just say: ‘Do your job, sell the film,’ and then in retrospect we realised: ‘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,” she said.

Earlier this week, Loach got into a Twitter feud with Radiohead’s Thom Yorke over the band’s upcoming concert in Israel.

Thom Yorke performs with Radiohead at Philips Arena, Atlanta, April 1, 2017. (Robb Cohen/Invision/AP)

The argument started when Loach tweeted on Tuesday that “Radiohead need to decide if they stand with the oppressed or the oppressor. The choice is simple.”

But Yorke defended his stance, saying, “Playing in a country isn’t the same as endorsing its government. We’ve played in Israel for over 20 years through a succession of governments, some more liberal than others. As we have in America.”

We don’t endorse Netanyahu any more than Trump, but we still play in America,” Yorke said. “Music, art and academia is about crossing borders not building them, about open minds not closed ones, about shared humanity, dialogue and freedom of expression. I hope that makes it clear Ken.”

Loach was the latest in a series of artists — among them former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters — who have tried to pressure the British band to cancel its July 19 concert and a planned university lecture.


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