Forty Shades of Grey: Nicky Larkin tries to show both sides of the Middle East coin
June 11, 2012 | Jewish Tribune
Fred Litwin Special to the Tribune
OTTAWA – The latest battleground in the cultural boycott of Israel is Ireland. Over the past couple of years, hundreds of Irish artists, musicians and writers have pledged to boycott Israel and the country is in the midst of a huge debate on the topic.
The traditional group Dervish recently pulled out of a trip to Israel because of an “avalanche of negativity” and “venom” directed towards them on the internet.
But, there’s some good news in this story. First, Justice Minister Alan Shatter has attacked the Irish Palestinian Solidarity Group for its cyber-bullying of Irish Artists. Secondly, there’s been some pushback from one filmmaker in Ireland who has had the courage to stand by his convictions and that is Nicky Larkin.
Larkin was born in Birr, Ireland, in 1983. He studied fine art and started working in experimental film. In 2007, he shot a short film on Chernobyl, which has screened at several film festivals. Since then, he has short several documentaries that have been shown throughout Europe.
In 2011, he went to Israel to make the standard ‘Israel is evil’ documentary. However, once he got there, he discovered that reality is a bit more nuanced and he changed his mind and his documentary. Once back in Ireland, he penned an article in the Irish Independent where he laid down a challenge.
“Israel is a refuge – but a refuge under siege, a refuge where rockets rain death from the skies. And as I made the effort to empathize, to look at the world through their eyes. I began a new intellectual journey. One that would not be welcome back home.
“The problem began when I resolved to come back with a film that showed both sides of the coin. Actually there are many more than two. Which is why my film is called Forty Shades of Grey. But only one side was wanted back in Dublin. My peers expected me to come back with an attack on Israel. No grey areas were acceptable.
An Irish artist is supposed to sign boycotts, wear a PLO scarf and remonstrate loudly about ‘The Occupation.’ But it's not just artists who are supposed to hate Israel. Being anti-Israel is supposed to be part of our Irish identity, the same way we are supposed to resent the English.
But hating Israel is not part of my personal national identity. Neither is hating the English. I hold an Irish passport, but nowhere upon this document does it say I am a republican, or a Palestinian.”
Larkin will be showing his film, Forty Shades of Grey in Toronto on June 20 at B’nai Brith Canada, 15 Hove St. at 7:30 p.m. He will also talk about his experience and answer questions from the audience. Here’s your chance to hear first-hand why Larkin changed his mind about Israel.
He will also be showing his film in Ottawa on June 18 at Library & Archives Canada, 395 Wellington at 7 p.m. and in Montreal on June 19 at 4054 Jean-Talon West at 7 p.m.
For more information, call Aaron Rosenberg at (416) 633-6224.
Fred Litwin is the president of the Free Thinking Film Society.