The government's decision to pass the loyalty oath bill is
sparking outrage both in and out of Israel. Acclaimed British director Mike Leigh has
canceled a visit to Israel due to this new political development.
Leigh was scheduled to arrive in Israel on October 20 and visit Jerusalem as the guest of the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School.
In a personal letter to Sam Spiegel director Ranan Shor, Leigh admitted he had always been hesitant about visiting Israel. He stated he cannot and does not wish to come to Israel and noted he wished he had canceled his visit after the IDF raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla last May, which he said was justly condemned by the international community.
The director noted that matters had worsened since and explained a visit by him would be construed as support of Israel. He described the loyalty oath bill as "the straw that broke the camel's back" after mentioning that the resumption of settlement construction had first led him to reconsider his visit. Leigh also pointed to the Gaza blockade and the shooting innocent children as reasons for his decision.
Leigh, who had previously visited Israel in 1990, went on to explain say he would be the first to visit the Sam Spiegel School when peace is achieved, a just solution for the Palestinians facilitated and Gaza rehabilitated and stated his current position is nevertheless unnegotiable.
Leigh in action (Photo: Simon Mein)
During his planned visit to Israel Leigh was meant to give a master class for Sam Spiegel students and graduates, hold audience meetings in Jerusalem and Haifa and give a lecture for Palestinian filmmakers in Jenin. All events have been canceled.
In a letter of response to the British director, Shor regretted Leigh's decision and noted that the school's students and teachers who awaited his visit were not accountable for the Israeli government's policy. Shor further added that the public significance of Leigh's decision will be construed as a bill of divorce.
In a public statement the Israeli director said, "This saddens me deeply. We were greatly looking forward to Mike Leigh's visit. We have become more and more isolated in the international arena due to the political situation but I shall keep trying to bring the cinema greats from around the world to Israel. "
Sam Spiegel director Ranan Shor (Photo: Guy Assayag)
In 1993 Leigh, won the best director award at Cannes Film festival for his film "Naked" and has since had great success in Israel and the rest of the world with such films as "Secrets and Lies" "Topsy-Turvy" and "Vera Drake."
One cinema persona who has already landed in Israel is Italian film editor Roberto Perpignani ("Last Tango in Paris" "Padre Padrone") who will be giving a master class for Sam Spiegel students. Perpignani will also be the guest of honor in the "My Favorite Scene" conference to be held in the Jerusalem Cinematheque on Thursday.