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21 October 2010

Preview: NS interview with Mike Leigh

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

By Daniel Trilling

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:

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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.