Ken Loach boycotts Melbourne film festival

British filmmaker Ken Loach's decision to withdraw his film Looking for Eric from the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) has led to a storm of debate.

Loach, along with Looking for Eric writer Paul Laverty and producer Rebecca O'Brien, wrote to the organisers to explain the film would be withdrawn from the festival if organisers continued to accept sponsorship from the state of Israel.

In a July 13 email exchange available on Pulsemedia.org they told MIFF executive director Richard Moore: "As you are no doubt aware, many Palestinians, including artists and academics, have called for a boycott of events supported by Israel.

"There are many reasons for this; the illegal occupation of Palestinian land, destruction of homes and livelihoods, the massacres in Gaza, all are part of the continuing oppression of the Palestinian people.

"We have no alternative but to respond to their appeal for help … This is not a boycott of independent Israeli films or filmmakers but of the Israeli state."

Moore rejected Loach's request. He told the Age that to comply would be "like submitting to blackmail".

Loach, Laverty and O'Brien responded to Moore's refusal on July 14. "We are forced to make a choice by those who are suffering such intolerable oppression," they said.

"The boycott of apartheid South Africa suffered similar criticisms to the ones you now make. But who would now say it was wrong?"