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Ken Loach and Mike Leigh resign as London cinema patrons over Israeli film festival

The Phoenix Cinema in 2020
The Phoenix Cinema in 2020 Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Euronews Culture
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Directors Ken Loach and Mike Leigh have resigned as patrons of one of London’s oldest cinemas over a film festival with links to the Israeli government.

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British directors Ken Loach and Mike Leigh have pulled out as patrons of London’s Phoenix Cinema in protest of the venue hosting the Israeli international Seret film festival, The Guardian reported on Thursday.

“My resignation as a patron of the Phoenix shows what I think of their decision. It is simply unacceptable,” Loach told The Guardian after resigning.

As part of the festival, the north London cinema hosted a special screening of “Supernova: The Music Festival Massacre” about the Hamas-led terrorist attack at the Nova music festival on 7 October.

Pro-Palestine solidarity groups, as well as a number of staff at the Phoenix Cinema, called for the screening to be cancelled over Seret’s links to the Israeli culture ministry and the Israeli embassy in the UK. Cinema chains Picturehouse and Curzon had already cancelled all Seret screenings over safety concerns.

Ken Loach at the BAFTA awards in 2024
Ken Loach at the BAFTA awards in 2024Vianney Le Caer/2024 Invision/AP Photo

Pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protesters clashed outside the historic north London cinema ahead of the screening, just hours after the cinema’s front doors were spray painted in red with the message: “Say no to art washing”.

Among the groups calling for the screening to be cancelled was Artists for Palestine UK, who said: “Seret is part of a broader artwashing strategy by the Israel apartheid state that uses culture to whitewash and cover up its crimes against the Palestinian people.”

In response to the graffiti and protests, Seret’s organisers thanked those who came out on Thursday in support of the screening. “You all filled our hearts with joy and hope. Thank you, London!” organisers wrote on the festival’s Facebook page.

The resignation of Loach and Lee forms part of a growing cultural boycott of Israel, which included calls for the country to be banned from participating in the Eurovision Song Contest.

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