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...

  • Book Reviews Personalities How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    JNS.org – What would you do if you found out that you had only three more months to live? Gordon Zacks was a successful businessman, a leader of Jewish life, and a confidante and adviser to President George H.W. Bush. He knew that he had prostate cancer, but doctors advised him that it was very slow-growing and nothing to worry about. Then came the day when the doctors told him his cancer metastasized to his liver, and that he had [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater 10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    Last month, my one-man show Hoaxocaust! Written and performed by Barry Levey with the generous assistance of the Institute for Political and International Studies, Tehran ran in the New York International Fringe Festival, where it won an Overall Excellence Award. The play has now been selected to run in the Fringe Encores Series at Baruch College’s Performing Arts Center, for four performances which started on Thursday, September 11. Getting the play to the stage was not easy, however. Here are [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Phenomenon: Tel Aviv-based musician and “sampler” extraordinaire, Kutiman (aka Ophir Kutiel) has hit another one out of the park with “Give It Up,” a fully-functioning song in its own right, assembled from hundreds of ameteur and instructional music videos. The Jerusalem-born musical prodigy is best know for his diverse online musical projects. In the latest video, uploaded to YouTube on Sept. 12th, Kutiel thanked most of the musicians and individuals he chose to include in the meticulously-edited clip, which opens with [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    A recently released behind-the-scenes reel of Ridley Scott’s upcoming film Exodus: Gods and Kings shows just how far the director has gone to portray one of the Bible’s most famous narratives. In the clip, which shows scenes involving up to 4,000 extras, the visionary director discusses what drew him to the biblical tale of Moses. “The Moses story was a massive challenge, which I really love. I wanted to explore the complexity of his character and I was stunned by [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    JNS.org – Since 2006, the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable and satellite TV network has hosted “The Projected Image,” a month-long showcase examining how different cultural and ethnic groups have been portrayed on the big screen. At last, after previously covering African Americans, Asians, the LGBT community, Latinos, Native Americans, Arabs, and people with disabilities, the annual series is delving into Jewish film this month. “The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film,” whose first segment aired Sept. 2, runs [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    The sight of young girls in pinafores and young boys wearing peyos – sidelocks – dangling over their ears is a sure sign that you have entered the enigmatic precincts of the Hasidim – the pious ones. Veteran New York Times journalist Joseph Berger’s new book, THE PIOUS ONES: The World of Hasidim and their Battles with America, takes the reader on a journey into the enclaves where various sects of Jews live a seemingly outmoded way of life in [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    JNS.org – Today’s comedy superstars, especially those whose careers are driven by television, may very well owe their success to pioneering Jewish entertainer Milton Berle. Born Mendel Berlinger in Manhattan in 1908, Berle became America’s first small-screen star. Aptly nicknamed “Mr. Television,” he influenced and helped promote the work of hundreds of younger comics. “Milton Berle was deceptively successful and very Jewish,” says Lawrence Epstein, author of The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America, published the year [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    JNS.org – Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift—a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Stephen Curry. Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.