Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

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. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    Is diplomacy worthwhile, even if the end result isn’t what we hoped for? That is the question, among many others, posed by the new play Oslo, by J.T. Rogers. Making its New York debut at Lincoln Center, the play examines the secret diplomatic process that led to the historic 1993 peace accords. The character of Shimon Peres makes an appearance onstage — and he, along with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, tower over the proceedings. But they mainly do so in absentia. Instead, […]

    Read more →
  • Spirituality/Tradition Sports Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    JNS.org – Other than being part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, Sandy Koufax and Dean Kremer have something else in common: a respect for Jewish tradition. Koufax — who was recently ranked by ESPN as the best left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball (MLB) history — decided not to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because the game fell on Yom Kippur. “I would do the same,” Kremer said in an interview. Last month, the 20-year-old Kremer became […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    The famed lead guitarist of British rock band Queen, Brian May, encouraged Jewish singer-songwriter Adam Lambert to perform in Hebrew during their upcoming joint concert in Israel, an entertainment industry advocacy organization reported on Tuesday. During a recent interview with Israeli television personality Assi Azar, May was played a 2005 video of Lambert singing the popular song Shir L’Shalom, (Song for Peace). May was so impressed by Lambert’s singing of the Hebrew track that he told the American singer, “We have to do that. Let’s […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    JNS.org – Kenyan-born marathoner Lonah Chemtai is expected to compete for Israel at the Olympics Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil next month after gaining a last minute approval. “I am very proud [to represent Israel] and I hope to achieve a new personal best time,” Chemtai told Reuters. Chemtai, who grew up a rural village in western Kenya, first came to Israel in 2009 to care of the children of her country’s ambassador to Israel. The 27-year-old runner recently gained […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    To date or not to date? That is not the question for most Modern Orthodox singles in New York. The question is when will they find their future spouses, and when will their families stop nagging them about having babies? Inspired by the success of the Israeli show “Srugim,” Leah Gottfried, 25, decided she would create and star in her own show, “Soon By You.” “Dating is so serious already,” Gottfried said. “We wanted to take a lighter approach and laugh at the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israeli Actress Says Playing Muslim Character in ‘Tyrant’ Has Made Her More ‘Hopeful, Humble’

    Israeli Actress Says Playing Muslim Character in ‘Tyrant’ Has Made Her More ‘Hopeful, Humble’

    Israeli actress Moran Atias said that playing a Muslim woman in the hit FX series Tyrant has changed her outlook. “Educating myself about a different culture has made me more hopeful and humble, that we’re all the same,” the Jewish actress, 35, said during an interview with AOL Build. Atias plays Leila Al-Fayeed, the strong and politically minded wife of the president of Abbudin, a fictional Middle Eastern country run by a dictatorial family. The Israeli-born former model, who earned the title of Miss Globe International […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Jewish Fashionistas From Around the World to Tour ‘Chic Side of Israel’

    Jewish Fashionistas From Around the World to Tour ‘Chic Side of Israel’

    A delegation of 35 Jewish fashion industry mavens from around the world will travel to Israel later this month to “discover the chic side” of the country, 5 Town Jewish Times reported. The eight-day tour, organized by the Maryland-based Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP) and the Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, will include visits to key fashion sites and meetings with some of the country’s top fashion designers, merchandisers and marketers. Participants will also attend a JWRP Fashion Week event in Tel Aviv. JWRP said the trip is […]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Granddaughter of Holocaust Survivors Honored to Represent Israel at 2016 Olympic Games

    Granddaughter of Holocaust Survivors Honored to Represent Israel at 2016 Olympic Games

    Pro golfer Laetitia Beck said she is honored to have been selected to represent Israel at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil largely because of her grandparents, who survived the Holocaust. “Everywhere I go, I want people to know where I’m from, my background and where my family came from because of the struggle they had to go through,” she told the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). “Every week when I play and I see the Israeli flag, it brings me a lot […]

    Read more →