Jewish director disowns film festival award
AN AWARD-WINNING Jewish director has asked for his name to be stripped from the records of the Edinburgh International Film Festival after organisers rejected a travel grant for an Israeli film-maker.
Manchester-born Gary Sinyor, who won the EIFF's prestigious Charlie Chaplin award for Leon The Pig Farmer in 1992, has accused the festival of "caving in" to the views of director Ken Loach.
Sinyor says the festival should not be seen to give in to "extremists" and says he is so upset that he would cut the metal award in half and send it back if he could.
The spat began when the EIFF initially accepted 300 from the Israeli embassy to help fund the travel of Israeli film-maker Tali Shalom-Ezer. She was due to visit Scotland to attend the premiere of her short film, Surrogate.
But the decision drew criticism from a Palestinian campaign group, Socialist Unity, which threatened to boycott the festival unless the money was returned. Then Loach, the internationally-acclaimed director of The Wind That Shakes The Barley and Ae Fond Kiss, said he would support the boycott.
Subsequently, the EIFF made clear that it would not accept the 300.
Sinyor said he had tried to "make sense" of the about-turn but could only "assume that Ken Loach exerted sufficient pressure on the festival that one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world actually caved in.
"It's a shame that Ken feels particularly strongly about not having anything to do with Israel or Israeli money because clearly Israelis obviously like Ken."
Both of his two recent hit films had been distributed in Israel. "Is he happy to take the money or does the thought that it may have paid for a tank or bullet keep him awake? When a two-state solution comes, will Ken rejoice, or will he stamp his feet in frustration?"
Sinyor added that Israel should not be equated solely with a "terrorist entity, rather than a country" with many different shades of public opinion.
Loach was reported yesterday as saying: "I don't respond to personal attacks. I would urge Gary Sinyor and others to look at the facts of the boycott."
An open letter to Shalom-Ezer said: "To be crystal clear, as a film-maker you will be welcome in Edinburgh. The opposition was to the film festival's taking money from the Israeli state."
Iain Smith, the chairman of EIFF, said a review had been launched. "I apologise sincerely for the distress," he added. "Clearly we didn't appreciate enough that our festival cannot keep itself entirely detached from serious geopolitical issues."
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