Preview: NS interview with Mike Leigh

The director explains his refusal to visit Israel and says he received "exhortations not to go" from

Earlier this week, I interviewed the director Mike Leigh, whose new film, Another Year, is one of the main attractions at the current London Film Festival. The full interview will appear in a forthcoming issue of the NS, but here's an excerpt where Leigh explains his recently publicised decision not to attend a film teaching event in Israel, in protest at the country's loyalty oath bill.

I was going to go and give workshops at the film school [the Sam Spiegel Film & Television School in Jerusalem]. I agreed to go with great misgivings, for all the obvious reasons, but there is a very committed guy who runs the school. He persuaded me, I allowed myself to be persuaded [to go] in solidarity with what undoubtedly are very committed film-makers. But the truth is that just after I agreed to do that, there was the flotilla, then [settlement] building began again on the West Bank and then we have the loyalty oath.

I have become increasingly uncomfortable, I really felt that I simply had to join [the cultural boycott]. I have been a signatory to Jews for Justice in Palestine and various other things for a number of years. In the end you can go and indulge in comfortable cultural activity but just less distance from that activity then we are from the centre of Guilford, probably nearer [the interview took place in central London], it's hell on earth in Gaza and it's not acceptable. And that's the bottom line.

Leigh says that his decision was not taken lightly:

Unlike a whole lot of other film-makers, I come at this from a long background because I was in Zionist socialist youth groups. I actually come from a Zionist background. And I walked away from it a long time ago. It gets worse, it's got worse and worse and it really isn't on. Despite all the protestations from artists inside Israel, it is absolutely not on to support any kind of institutions.

Incidentally I've actually also received, from within Israel, exhortations not to go and congratulations on having made the decision.

Daniel Trilling is the Editor of New Humanist magazine. He was formerly an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

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Political video has come full circle in Obama and Clinton’s mockumentary-style films

Political campaign videos are increasingly mimicking the specific styles of filmmaking created to mock them.

This week, Hillary Clinton released a campaign video featuring Barack Obama, in an attempt to persuade her supporters to vote early. It revolved around Obama’s self-professed earliness. “I’m always early,” he tells us, cheerily. Aides chip in to explain this irritating habit, which becomes progressively more exaggerated, his approach to timing absurd. “You know how you beat LeBron James one-on-one? Get there 45 minutes early. Then it’s one-on-none.” A former staffer sighs. “You try telling the President of the United States there’s no such thing as a one-on-none.”

This is an instantly recognisable mockumentary style – deliberately shakey camerawork, complete with lots of zooming in and out, as absurd corporate behaviour is interspersed with incredulous talking heads and voiceover. It has its roots in the Office UK, taking the States by storm with The Office US, 30 Rock and Modern Family, and developing a political subgenre in The Thick of It, In the Loop and, most recently, Parks and Recreation. (Vague comparisons between Clinton and Poehler’s Leslie Knope abound.)

The content, too, seems familiar – a politician talks to camera about a personality quirk that is broadly a strength for someone in government, but exaggerates it to create a geeky, optimistic goofball, and a pretty likeable character. Take Leslie Knope on never smoking weed:

In terms of style and content, they’re fairly indistinguishable. And this not the only Clinton campaign video influenced by mockumentary and comedy tropes . In March, the Clinton campaigned released a “mean tweets” video with Senator Al Franken in the style of a Jimmy Kimmel Live talking head. Three days ago, a video campaign starring “Fake Lawyer” Josh Charles, an actor on The Good Wife, was released. It borrows heavily from mockumentary styles as well as self-mocking celebrity cameos in advertising. Even some non-comic videos, like this lighthearted one about Clinton’s granddaughter, have the exaggerated camerawork of the genre.

Of course, we can trace these campaign videos back to Obama again. His campaigns have always been heavily video based, and he’s taken the piss out of himself for Buzzfeed to promote campaigns. But the White House’s official channels are also in on the joke. In 2013, they released a mockumentary starring Steven Spielberg and 30 Rock’s Tracey Morgan, in which Obama plays Daniel Day Lewis playing Obama.

Earlier this year, the channel released another mini mockumentary, featuring Obama preparing for the end of his time as president. (The film even ridicules a less self-aware style of video – Obama posts a misjudged Snapchat about Obamacare, and asks “Did it get a lot of views at least?”)

A politician whose ideal evening consists of children’s movie marathons with colleagues? Where have we seen that before? Yes, political video has come full circle. Personally, I’m waiting on the Hillary Clinton break dancing clip

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.