Director objects to Israeli funding for festival

Brit helmer Ken Loach has pulled his Cannes player “Looking for Eric” from the Melbourne Film Festival, saying he could not support an event that had accepted funding from the state of Israel.

It’s the second controversy in as many weeks to embroil the 17-day fest, which opens Friday with the world preem of Robert Connolly’s “Balibo.”

Fest management will replace the two heavily subscribed screenings of “Looking for Eric,” about a postman’s imaginary relationship with soccer legend Eric Cantona, with a film that will appeal to Loach fans. It will also offer refunds.

“Mr. Loach’s decision is part of an orchestrated campaign to target events that receive financial support from Israel,” fest director Richard Moore said, adding the fest “is extremely disappointed Mr. Loach has taken this stance. (The festival) has played every one of his movies over the years including ‘It’s a Free World.’ “

Last week, Chinese officials tried to get Melbourne to cancel the world preem of an Oz-made doc about the plight of ethnic minority Uighurs in China, “The 10 Conditions of Love,” demanding Moore justify the pic’s inclusion in the fest.

Moore is reveling in the publicity, telling media that as an indie arts org, the fest is a forum for different perspectives and will not bend to political pressure. Unspoolings of “The 10 Conditions of Love” have sold out, and an additional session has been scheduled.

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