Irish director backs festival boycott over Israeli sponsorship

Lenny Abrahamson ‘fully supports’ theatre’s decision to decline Jewish Film Festival screening

Irish film director Lenny Abrahamson has said he supports the decision by the Tricycle Theatre in London not to show a Jewish film festival because it is partially sponsored by the Israeli embassy.

Mr Abrahamson, who is Jewish, tweeted yesterday: “As a filmmaker of Jewish background I fully support the Tricycle’s position”.

He is arguably the highest profile Irish film director at present having made a number of successful films including Adam and Paul, Garage, What Richard Did and his latest, Frank.

The Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, north London, was to be the main venue for the UK Jewish Film Festival (UKJFF) with 26 films due to be screened in November.


The theatre declined to host the UKJFF because the Israeli embassy in London is providing a small amount of sponsorship, £1,400 (€1,750), towards hosting it.

The theatre offered to fund the shortfall themselves if the festival sent back the money from the embassy, but the organisers declined to do that saying such a demand was “unacceptable”.

The decision has provoked controversy in the UK with festival organisers accusing the theatre of politicising an event which includes many films sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

In response to Mr Abrahamson’s decision, one person tweeted: “Thank you for this, the right thing but not easy. Israeli govt does not mean Israeli people, let alone Jews” to which the director responded: “I totally agree”.

On its website, the theatre's artistic director Indhu Rubasingham posted: "Given the situation in Israel and Gaza, we do not believe that the festival should accept funding from any party to the current conflict.

"For that reason, we asked the UK Jewish Film Festival to reconsider its sponsorship by the Israeli embassy. We also offered to replace that funding with money from our own resources.

“We regret that, following discussions, the chair of the UKJFF told us that he wished to withdraw the festival from the Tricycle.

“To be clear, at this moment, the Tricycle would not accept sponsorship from any government agency involved in the conflict.”

UK Jewish Film Festival founder and executive director Judy Ironside said they had always ought to " convey a wide perspective on the conflicts in the Middle East and initiate open dialogue with our audiences and guest speakers; and the Israeli embassy have always supported us in this. The Tricycle have refused to take this into account in their decision."

The festival was backed by actress Maureen Lipman, who said: "The Tricycle have decided to punish Jewish people in the diaspora for one view of what is taking place in the Middle East and that is quite unacceptable."

In a joint statement, the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council in the UK described the Tricycle's decision as " shameful and shows that boycotts of Israel inevitably lead to the harassment of Jewish culture and individuals".

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times