Career awards are usually the opportunity for a victory lap, but when Jason Blum took the stage at the Israel Film Festival in Los Angeles on Tuesday night, it wasn’t his own victory he was concerned with. Blum, who was nominated for an Oscar for Get Out and also produced the current Halloween sequel, took the occasion of receiving the IFF’s Achievement in Film & Television Award as the midterms election results were rolling in to reflect on the current state of the world and the place films and TV can play in it, and as his remarks took a pronounced anti-Trump bent, the crowd grew increasingly hostile.
Video posted by the Hollywood Reporter, a sponsor of the festival, shows audience members on their feet, whistling and shouting Blum down. Toward the end of Blum’s speech, a man, identified by THR as Yossi Dina, an Israel pawnbroker who starred in a reality show called Beverly Hills Pawn, attempting to physically pull Blum from the stage. At that point, security was called over the house P.A., and after Blum was ushered into the wings, festival founder Meir Fenigstein took the stage and tried to calm the crowd, eventually suggesting they sing “some happy songs.”
The Israel Film Festival is sponsored by the Adelson Foundation, which was established by Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire media mogul and prominent Trump supporter who was the largest single donor to both the 2012 and 2016 presidential campaigns. So Blum probably knew he was in for a hostile reception—and given that he previously made headlines for preposterously claiming that his company’s failure to produce a movie helmed by a woman was due to a lack of interest in the horror genre from female directors, he may have welcomed a chance to change the narrative. To judge from the THR video, he did get a chance to complete his speech, even adding a conciliatory clause about Trump supporters, but Blum took the occasion of going viral to post the entire text of his remarks on Twitter. Here’s what he said.
Thank you, Lin, for those kind remarks and for your friendship. I am thrilled you could be here tonight. And thank you to Meir Fenigstein everyone at the Israel Film Festival for this tribute. I am honored to be recognized by a group dedicated to showcasing Israel’s thriving film and television industry. I’m especially honored to share the stage with Avi Nesher whose work I have admired for many, many years. Avi has never been afraid to tackle serious social issues, and his films are beloved by audiences and critics around the world. He’s played a pivotal role in the growing prominence of Israeli cinema. I am also a huge fan of Israeli television. As an avowed binge-watcher, I have spent way too many hours with Fauda and Hostages. Not to mention Homeland, which would not exist if not for Hatufim.
So, tonight we have much to celebrate as we open the 32nd Israel Film Festival. At the same time, today, Americans went to the polls to exercise our right to vote on what kind of future we want for our children. Those election results are pouring in as I speak. And so much is on the line. The past two years have been hard for all of us who cherish the freedoms we enjoy as citizens of this country. The sense of community that has bound us together for generations is all but gone. We have seen the end of civil discourse. We have a President who calls the Press the enemy of the people. Nationalism is surging. Dog whistle politics are rampant and anti-Semitism is on the rise in ways my generation never thought imaginable. The Internet has become a place where people can vent their rage and spew hate anonymously. It is helping bigotry thrive. The truth is, hate speech breeds violence. It dehumanizes. It demonizes. And ultimately, it targets. What we saw in Pittsburgh was a horrific example.
These are NOT isolated incidents. They are NOT happening somewhere else. They are happening HERE in our communities and we must step up and speak up. We cannot allow anti-Semitism or bigotry of any form to become mainstream. Those of us who work in film and television have a vital role to play in telling stories that portray all kinds of people from all corners of the world. Stories that entertain, but also make us think more and harder about who we are and where we are going.
It’s time for us to be vigilant in bringing new voices to the cinema. To nurturing [sic] diverse filmmakers from all walks of life who can offer unique perspectives on the world. When you have a chance to walk in the shoes of others who are not like you, it is harder to hate. Most of all, this is a time for all of us to examine our values and decide what we are willing to tolerate. It is time to be accountable. It’s time to speak out loudly when we see examples of bigotry. Don’t allow it from your friends, your co-workers or your family members. If we are not accountable, we may wake up one day in a country we don’t even recognize. Let us all hope that today’s election starts to chart a different course—not just for the U.S., but for the world—one that reaffirms the values that we all cherish. Thank you.