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UK Tricycle Theatre Ditches UK Jewish Film Fest

Indhu RubasinghamIn my opinion, London’s Tricycle Theatre appears to be one wheel short of stable thinking.

The theatre has been the hosting location of the UK Jewish Film Festival for the past eight years, and it was scheduled to be the primary venue for the fest’s 26 films and six galas this November.

Sadly, the theatre did not like that the Embassy of Israel in London was one of several sponsors of the UKJFF (it has been one of the sponsors for 17 years), and they asked the festival to not accept Israeli funds. The theatre offered to find alternate funding from its own resources to make up the funding gap.

But that is like someone inviting you to a party at their house, but telling you not to bring your spouse.

The Executive Director of the UKJFF, Judy Ironside, said that the Tricycle’s decision was a surprise and added that the demands of the theatre were entirely unacceptable and the fest will take its screenings elsewhere. She said, “They [the theatre] have chosen a boycott over meaningful engagement – to the great detriment of this celebration of Jewish culture.”

Indhu Rubasingham (pictured above), the artistic director of the Tricycle Theatre, said “The festival receives funding from the Israeli embassy and given the current conflict in Israel and Gaza, we feel it is inappropriate to accept financial support from any government agency involved….We offered to provide alternative funding to cover the loss of the contribution from the Israeli embassy. We want the festival… However, the UKJFF decided it was not willing to decline sponsorship from the Israeli embassy and, to our regret, withdrew 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. We hope to find a way to work with the UK Jewish Film Festival to allow the festival to go ahead at the Tricycle as it has done so successfully for the past 8 years.”

Yes… they will not take funding from any party in the current conflict… Yes… right… I am sure Hamas is planning to fund a film festival in London.

The theatre did not want a symbol of the Embassy of Israel on marketing materials and posters that would publicize the festival. They felt it was a provocation to its community and patrons.

The Guardian reported that The board of the Tricycle Theatre asked to be allowed to view in advance all of the films that were made with Israeli backing (nearly all Israeli films receive funding from the Israel Film Fund) in order to approve their content. The leaders of the UKJFF said this amounted to censorship and dismissed the request. Rubasingham omits that from her statement.

Maureen Lipman, CBE*, the newspaper columnist and award-winning actress and co-star of The Pianist, expressed dismay at the Tricylce’s decision, saying, “The Tricycle has 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.”

Sir Nicholas Robert Hytner, the Director of London’s National Theatre and the director of Miss Saigon, The History Boys and One Man, Two Guvnors, said, “I greatly regret the UKJFF’s decision to leave the Tricycle cinema. Indhu Rubasingham and the Tricycle board could not have made clearer their commitment to Jewish culture or their desire to host a festival that would have included films from all over the world, including Israel. It is entirely understandable that they felt obliged to insist that no government agency should sponsor the festival… it greatly saddens me that the UKJFF have unwisely politicised a celebration of Jewish culture and I deplore any misrepresentation of the Tricycle’s position. I support Indhu Rubasingham and the Tricycle without reservation.’

Philip Himberg, the Artistic Director of the Sundance Institute Theatre Program wrote, “I am the Artistic Director of a major American theatre company, and the author of Paper Dolls, a play set in Israel, which looks at the warm and loving relationship between an Israeli citizen and his caretaker. The play’s world premiere was exquisitely produced by the Tricycle Theatre in its world premiere in 2013, and sensitively directed by Indhu Rubasingham. I believe, without a doubt, that as regards the current crisis in the Middle East, the Tricycle must remain neutral by refusing sponsorship from any government directly involved in the conflict. As a great lover of Jewish theatrical culture, (I will soon be supporting the development of a new Yiddish language opera), there was a clear way for the UKJFF’s celebration of diverse Jewish culture to go forward at the Tricycle – but at this particular moment in time, utilizing funds from any of the governments in power in the region would be taking an unfair political stand.”

David Mark Lane, CBE, the South African-born British playwright, filmmaker, and theatre director wrote, “What matters is not what is happening in Kilburn but what has been happening in Gaza and in Israel. Violence will only produce more violence – theatre has been saying this for 3000 years. The Tricycle have acted morally and with sensitivity. I support Indhu and the Board and hope that all theatre people throughout the world will do the same.”

Jonathan Levy, chairman of the Tricycle, write, “Given the present situation in Israel/Palestine, and the unforeseen and unhappy escalation that has occurred over the past three weeks, including a terrible loss of life, the Tricycle cannot be associated with any activity directly funded or supported by any party to the conflict… The Tricycle will be pleased to host the UKJFF provided that it occurs without the support or other endorsement from the Israeli government.”

Lenny Abrahamson, director of What Richard Did and Frank, wrote, “As a filmmaker of Jewish background I fully support the Tricycle’s position.”

David Winner, the author and soccer specialist tweeted:

I am wondering about what happens if a production gets sponsorship money from Coca Cola or another embassy. What about funding from the British government at Tricycle productions? Why is the theatre picking on this specific event? This week they are hosting a Dawn of the Planet of the Apes film. It is funded by 20th Century Fox and Dune Entertainment. Have these groups been properly vetted?

Below is a link to a debate on the Tricycle’s theatre from BBC Newsnight between Simon Johnson, Chief Executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, and Philippe Sands, board member of the Tricycle

* CBE: Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire

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