In what promised to be a festive evening, the opening night gala of the 32nd Israel Film Festival kicked off at the Saban Theatre honoring Jason Blum with the 2018 IFF Achievement in Film & Television Award along with Avi Nesher being feted with the 2018 IFF Cinematic Achievement Award, with his film “The Other Story” being screened that evening.
The evening began festively with an abundance of food and libations served in the Lobby Rotunda where people sat at tables scattered around the room. Herding the audience to take one of the close to 2,000 seats was no easy trick, but once they were seated, several speeches ensued, including a welcoming address by Meir Fenigstein, the festival’s Founder and Executive Director, and remarks by Sam Grundwerg, Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles.
Then it came time to present the awards, the first of which was presented to Nesher whose early films “The Troupe” and “Dizengoff 99” are considered Israeli classics, with the recently restored “Rage and Glory” dubbed a masterpiece by Israeli critics. He made a thank-you speech and shortly thereafter it was time for Blum to be feted. A two-time Academy Award nominee, as well as winning two Emmy Awards, his Blumhouse Productions is known for pioneering a new model of studio filmmaking, producing such notable films as “Get Out,” “Whiplash,” “The Purge,” “Halloween,” and “BlacKkKlansman.”
When during his acceptance speech Blum tried to make reference to the divisiveness in our country under President Trump, he was met with thunderous boos, catcalls, and whistling which was this disrespectful audience’s way of preventing him from speaking. Gone was the First Amendment right to free speech and gone was civil discourse to which he tried referring, and certainly gone was the lack of respect for this most successful gentleman. Present was the abrasive behavior demonstrated time and time again by Trump. Even when Blum tried quoting the sharp increase in anti-Semitic incidents, this poorly behaved mob refused to let him speak. To his credit, he kept talking until he was removed from the stage by an audience member.
Some may argue that his remarks were inappropriate but what this out-of-control mob failed to grasp was that their behavior directly reflected the divisiveness in America and brought back the days of the crowd screaming “Lock Her Up,” “Lock Her Up.” Different words, but the intention was the same.
After Blum was pulled from the stage, Mistress of Ceremonies Sunda Croonquist tried her best to restore civility and to encourage the audience to calm down and allow the rest of the evening to continue.
All this said, we should now focus on the dozens of films, documentaries, and television programming created by dedicated young Israeli filmmakers that will be screened through November 20th. It will be well worth your time to see as many as you can, especially the November 14th screening of “The Conductor” starring award-winning actor Lior Ashkenazi who co-starred with Richard Gere in “Norman” and gave an unforgettable performance in “Foxtrot” shown in last year’s IFF. Among the films being screened predominantly at the Laemmle Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills include “A Land Without Borders,” “Shooting Life,” “Family In Transition,” “Here & Now,” “Shoelaces,” “Doubtful,” “The Assassination,” “Red Cow,” “Working Woman,” “The Syrian Patient,” “To Err Is Human,” “Redemption,” “The Oslo Diaries,” “The Unorthodox,” and “The Cakemaker,” Israel’s official entry for Best Foreign Language Film.
Consult the online IFF screening schedule for complete details. As with most Jewish events, the evening culminated in a delicious assortment of cakes and cookies and the earlier rude behavior was replaced by a sugar high.