By Ruth Eglash, The Jerusalem Post – 7 July 2010
Hollywood actors such as Meg Ryan backed out of attending this year’s annual Jerusalem Film Festival, which is set to kick off this coming Thursday, following the international outcry over Israel’s attack on a Turkish-led flotilla that attempted to break the Gaza blockade on May 31, The Jerusalem Post learned Monday.
According to Cinematheque associate director Yigal Molad Hayo, while neither gave the political climate as a direct reason for canceling their participation in the festival, “it became quite clear that this was the reason,” he said.
“Meg Ryan was supposed to come here, it had all been closed with her people,” said Molad Hayo, adding “a day after the flotilla incident we got an email saying she was not going to attend, and although they claimed it was because she was too busy, it was clear to me that it probably had something to do with what had happened.”
In addition to Ryan, who has starred in such movies as Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally and, more recently, Kate and Leopold, Molad Hayo said that the Cinematheque had also reached “advanced negotiations” with Jewish actor Dustin Hoffman.
“We were very close to reaching an agreement with him, then the flotilla happened and correspondence was ended,” said Molad Hayo.
A publicist for Dustin Hoffman denied that any contact had been made between the Hollywood actor and the film festival. She said clearly that her client had never planned on attending the event.
Ryan and Hoffman are not the only high-profile names to have apparently declined participation in this year’s festival.
Prince Albert of Monaco, son of legendary actress Grace Kelly, was also slated to attend.
“I’d already made arrangements for a tribute to Grace Kelly to appear in the festival program,” said Molad Hayo, adding that he believed Prince Albert’s cancellation could have come from pressure in his own country not to make an official visit to Israel at this time.
“I think they believed it could have been very negative for him and even dangerous,” he said.
“Many people from the Gulf States have their bank accounts in Monte Carlo and they might not have approved of him coming to a festival in west Jerusalem.”
“Sadly, even though we are a well-known event, it is obvious that the State of Israel has more influence than we do,” continued Molad Hayo, adding “many people are swayed by the political situation.”
Despite the obvious boycotting by high-profile guests, this year’s festival will still bring in some 150 official guests from all over the world, including heads of other international festivals, actors, producers and directors. It will also debut roughly 50 homegrown movies, documentaries and short films.
“Our guests this year might not be as famous as Dustin Hoffman, but there will be some well-known producers and directors,” said Molad Hayo. “Many of those attending took it upon themselves to pay their own way. This, to me, is very impressive and a compliment to the festival.”
He added that the festival, as in past years, will continue to provide an avenue for coexistence between Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers, and a delegation from the Cinematheque in Ramallah will attend.
“We are well known for encouraging cooperation between Palestinian and Israelis in the area of film,” said Molad Hayo.
More than 70,000 people are expected at the two-week event, which will take place at the Cinematheque and at various other locations around the capital.
The complete IOA coverage of the Gaza Flotilla