Israel and Hollywood

February 26, 2013 2:22 am 0 comments

Academy Awards. Photo: wiki commons.

“Americans don’t read books, Americans don’t read newspapers. Americans go to the movies.” — Stephen Colbert

Even through the warped mirror of satire, it’s hard to argue with the spot-on, pop cultural lens that’s wielded by Stephen Colbert. Here he explains to the Oscar nominee Kathryn Bigelow that it’s movies that will set the record for how Americans and the world recall history.

So while her film “Zero Dark Thirty” didn’t win Best Picture or much else last night, it’s doubtless that the 2 ½ hours of storytelling in it, will have a longer lasting impression detailing the hunt for Bin Laden than any book, article or testimony before Congress.

For this, Israel should take note. As Oscar consistently demonstrates, the way to influence hearts and minds is with stories. And since we’re not reading books or newspapers, we are still consuming stories via movies.

In a timely piece of convergence, Jews just celebrated one of the greatest stories in our history. It’s one that has political intrigue, a struggle for power, an evil villain right out of central casting and genuine heroism. Yes the story of Purim rivals anything Hollywood could ever dream up.

Moreover, the long, historical prism we celebrate Purim through, has relevance to today. The Purim story of course takes place in ancient Persia (what is now Iran) which, in its contemporary setting, also has a raving lunatic named Ahmadinejad, who like Haman, threatens genocide.

While it’s no Hollywood secret that the stories in ancient Jewry feed into and infuse the plotlines of countless contemporary, cultural chronicles—rare is it that Hollywood provides the modern source of Israel with the support it needs and deserves. When will Hollywood make a pro-Israel film that lifts it to the heroic heights her ancient tales occupy?

Next month, network television will again blow the dust off the classic, but antiquated epic, “The Ten Commandments”, starring Charlton Heston with whom most young people (if they know him at all) probably associate as a meme in the gun debate due to a media loop eternally rerunning his iconic “cold dead hands” moment.

While they don’t make ‘em like that anymore, The Maccabees, another story of ancient Jewish heroism, was in the hands of Mel “F%#K The Jews” Gibson for a time until it fell apart due to his rantings.

In such an upside-down world, one has to wonder how, of all the Hollywood Directors out there, did an anti-Semite almost end up telling that story?

Even while that project fortuitously collapsed, it’s nevertheless ironic that Israel was given the stage at The Academy Awards, by exercising a self-critical eye on itself. Israel was represented twice at last night’s Oscars with two films from the Holy Land that were up for Best Documentary, “5 Broken Cameras” which portrays violence against the director’s friends and family who lived in a West Bank village and Dror Moreh’s, “The Gatekeepers” which has six former Shin Bet chiefs (Israel Security Agency) on camera all claiming Israel is misguided or as David Denby of The New Yorker explained,

“…they are convinced that Israel is on the wrong track—that the future is “dark,” …that Israel is turning into a colonial power policing a rapidly increasing population of Arabs within its borders.”

J.J. Goldberg of The Forward put it more succinctly in a January piece when he wrote, “An Oscar for either one would be a tribute to Israeli art, but a black eye for Israel.”

While Israel, as the constant target of criticism is not news, rarely is it held up as a model of free speech and democracy for allowing its citizens, artists, politicians the freedom to hold the mirror up to itself and reflect itself (warts and all) for all the world to see.

The awards and accolades are for the stories that portray its flaws. But the fact that it has the courage to share those stories gets overlooked. The one country in the region that actually allows and encourages the exercise of freedom to self-reflect—moreover, publicly struts down the red carpet, broadcasting its foibles—doesn’t win any awards for its open and transparent media.

If Ted, the rude teddy bear puppet who last night declared “everyone in this business is at least half-Jewish” is even half-right, then maybe it’s time Israel and Hollywood get together, bond and put their heads together on how they can make the ultimate buddy movie.

This article was originally published by the Jerusalem Post. Abe Novick is a writer and communications consultant and can be reached at abebuzz.com.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Jewish Identity Sports Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    As the popularity of cycling continues to increase across the world, Israel is working to develop cycling trails that make the country’s spectacular desert accessible to cyclists. The southern segment of the Israel Bike Trail was inaugurated on Feb. 24 and offers for the first time a unique, uninterrupted 8-day cycling experience after six years of planning and development. The southern section of the Israel Bike Trail stretches over 300 kilometers in length and is divided into eight segments for mountain biking, [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    JNS.org – With the recent Oscars in the rearview mirror, Hollywood’s attention now shifts to the rest of this year’s big-screen lineup. Two of the major action films coming up in 2015—Avengers: Age of Ultron, which hits theaters in May, and the third film in the Fantastic Four series, slated for an August release—have Jewish roots that the average moviegoer might be unaware of. As it turns out, it took a tough Jewish kid from New York City’s Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – Rabbi Gordon Tucker spent the first 20 years of his career teaching at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and the next 20 years as the rabbi of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, N.Y. I confess that when I heard about the order of those events, I thought that Tucker’s move from academia to the pulpit was strange. Firstly, I could not imagine anyone filling the place of my friend, Arnold Turetsky, who was such a talented [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    JNS.org – I’m in love, and have been for a long time. It’s a relationship filled with laughter, tears, intrigue, and surprise. It was love at first sight, back when I was a little girl—with an extra-terrestrial that longed to go home. From then on, that love has never wavered, and isn’t reserved for one, but for oh so many—Ferris Bueller, Annie Hall, Tootsie, Harry and Sally, Marty McFly, Atticus Finch, Danny Zuko, Yentl, that little dog Toto, Mrs. Doubtfire, [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    At the turn of the 21st century through today, American involvement in Middle Eastern politics runs through the Central Intelligence Agency. In America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, historian Hugh Wilford shows this has always been the case. Wilford methodically traces the lives and work of the agency’s three most prominent officers in the Middle East: Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt was the grandson of president Theodore Roosevelt, and the first head of [...]

    Read more →
  • Relationships US & Canada Seniors at Los Angeles Jewish Home Give Witty Dating Advice Ahead of Valentine’s Day (VIDEO)

    Seniors at Los Angeles Jewish Home Give Witty Dating Advice Ahead of Valentine’s Day (VIDEO)

    Residents of the Los Angeles Jewish Home give dating advice to a young Jewish man in a comedic video posted Monday on YouTube just in time for Valentine’s Day. Jonathan, an associate at the Jewish home, quizzes the senior citizens on an array of topics including having sex on the first date, kissing a girl, who should pay for dinner and whether online dating is a good idea. When the 28-year-old asks a male resident named Lee about his experiences [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish History Kutsher’s Documentary an Amazing, and Tragic, Look at the Past (REVIEW)

    Kutsher’s Documentary an Amazing, and Tragic, Look at the Past (REVIEW)

    Anyone who spent time in the Jewish Catskills hotels – especially those like me, who returned for decades – must see the new documentary,”Welcome to Kutsher’s: The Last Catskills Resort.” Not only will the film transport you back to the glory days of your youth and thousands of memories, but it will also make you long for a world that is now lost forever. I returned to Kutsher’s one last time in the summer of 2009, but by then, the [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Jewish Identity Lifestyle Riding the Wave of Change in Part-Time Jewish Education

    Riding the Wave of Change in Part-Time Jewish Education

    JNS.org – Amid the numerous studies and analyses regarding Jewish American life, a simple fact remains: part-time Jewish education is the most popular vehicle for Jewish education in North America. Whenever and wherever parents choose Jewish education for their children, we have a communal responsibility to devote the necessary time and resources to deliver dynamic, effective learning experiences. The only way we can do this is by creating space for conversations and knowledge-sharing around innovative new education models. That also [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.