Israeli Helmers Join Call On Locarno Fest To Drop ‘Israel Film Focus’; Tessa Ross Quits National Theatre: Global Briefs

More than 200 filmmakers and industry professionals have signed a petition calling on the Locarno Film Festival to drop a planned Israel Film Focus, organised in partnership with the state-backed Israel Film Fund. Ken Loach, Mira Nair, Sally El Hosaini as well as Israeli filmmakers Simone Bitton, Eyal Sivan and Rachel Leah Jones were among the signatories, who expressed, “our deep concern with the fact that the Locarno festival is choosing to partner with the Israel Film Fund and Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, despite the fact that Israel has not just continued, but intensified its decades-old occupation, colonization, and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people. We are particularly disturbed about the timing of this Locarno Film Festival decision to promote Israel, coming on the heels of Israel’s latest massacre in Gaza in the summer of 2014, where more than two thousand Palestinians were killed, including more than five hundred children. Locarno’s decision also follows the election of the most racist, far-right government in Israel’s history. Given the current belligerence exhibited by Israel in its ongoing brutal attacks on Palestinian civilians and infrastructure, justified by the same Ministry of Foreign Affairs that you have chosen to be a partner of the festival, we demand that the festival organizers reconsider their relationship to the government of Israel, and withdraw their partnership with the Israel Film Fund, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and all other official Israeli entities. If the idea is to support individual Israeli filmmakers or screen Israeli films, there are many ways to do so without accepting funding or other forms of support from the Israeli state and government organizations,” read the statement.

Fest officials defended their choice of partner and program, countering with a statement that read, “the presence of the Israeli Film Fund – with whom the Festival del film Locarno, like the majority of international festivals, has an established relationship – is no different from the process followed in the four previous editions, dedicated to Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Brazil. As with the previous examples, the decision was made to choose an original and complex film industry on the contemporary scene, with the aim of giving a voice to projects selected by the Festival on purely artistic criteria.”  Locarno takes place August 5-15.

Tessa Ross, the former Film4 head, has quit her post as National Theatre chief executive only five months after taking the job, citing structural concerns as the reason for her departure. Ross joined in November last year and was supposed to work alongside National Theatre director Rufus Norris, who officially succeeded Nicholas Hytner this month. Ross issued a statement saying, “it has become clear to me that the new leadership structure, with a separate role of chief executive, is not right for the NT at this time, and so I have decided to step down. I will, with great pleasure, continue to work with Rufus and Lisa Burger as a consultant, ensuring the smooth delivery of their first season and planning for the next one. It is an institution that I love and for which it has been a great privilege to work.”

ITV today announced that David Harewood (Homeland) will guest star in drama Beowulf, joining the previously announced Kieran Bew (Da Vinci’s Demons) in the title role, William Hurt (Humans) and Joanne Whalley (Wolf Hall).  Harewood will play Scorann, a born warrior, fearsome fighter and man of great honour, in ITV’s epic re-imagining of one of literature’s greatest and most enduring heroes Beowulf. Created by James Dormer, Tim Haines and Katie Newman, this 13 part series is produced by ITV Studios and set in the mythical Shieldlands, a place of spectacle and danger populated by both humans and fantastical creatures. Ed Speleers (Downton Abbey) has been cast in the role of Slean and David Ajala (Black Box) will play Rate.

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