On the night of November 6, as the polls for the midterm elections were closing on the west coast, America’s divisiveness was on raucous display at the Steve Tisch Cinema Center in Beverly Hills. Jason Blum, producer of “Get Out” and head of Blumhouse Productions, was accepting the Israel Film Festival’s Achievement in Film and Television Award when he was booed by audience members for delivering a blistering indictment of President Trump’s divisive rhetoric. He was later escorted off the stage by security when an individual charged the podium, and was unable to finish his acceptance speech.
In Blum’s remarks, which he posted in full on Twitter, he praised the work of another honoree, the Israeli filmmaker Avi Nasher, and admitted hi devotion to the hit Israeli TV show “Fauda.” But when Blum got political, some in the crowd turned on him.
“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,” Blum said. “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.”
Some in the audience applauded while others jeered, shouting “we like Donald!” and “get off the stage!” Blum remained poised, then went off-script, saying “the great thing about this country is you can like Trump and I don’t have to and you put me on stage and I get to say how I feel about him.”
Blum next turned to the erosion of civil discussion, saying “as you can see from the auditorium we have seen the end of civil discourse;” he also blamed Trump for a spike in anti-Semitism. Following that remark an audience member identified by The Hollywood Reporter as Yossi Dina, an Israeli pawnbroker reality star from the show “Beverly Hills Pawn,” then rushed the stage and appeared to try to remove Blum by force. “You are going to have to drag me off the stage,” Blum said. He was ultimately taken to safety by festival security.
The following day the festival, now in its 32nd year, responded to the incident in a press release, reaffirming the festival’s commitment to free speech and lamenting the behavior of the crowd.
“Over the past three decades, we have never shied away from allowing a filmmaker or actor to express themselves either personally or through their work,” Meir Fenigstein, the Festival Director and Founder said in the statement. “We in no way condone violence but do wholeheartedly support dialogue that allows people to share ideas and viewpoints in a respectful way. Sadly, some audience members at last night’s opening greatly lacked that respect and turned an evening of celebration and recognition into something else.”
Feningstein said he was “in total shock” in the aftermath of the event, but acknowledged that the midterms may have played a role in the tensions in the room. Feningsten also claimed that the Festival did not try to stop Blum from speaking, but acted to protect him.
“To be clear, the Festival did not in any way remove Jason Blum from the stage. To protect him when an audience member in no way associated with the Festival charged the podium, the Festival security ushered Blum off the stage,” Feningstein said.
In the remainder of his speech, Blum intended to emphasize the urgency of boosting diverse filmmakers and perspectives.
“It’s time for us to be vigilant in bringing new voices to the cinema, Blum tweeted. “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.”
Blum did not comment on the issue of Israel. Yet some Israelis were still angered by his attack on Trump.
“Don’t mess with the Israelis,” David Ha’ivri, an assemblyman with the the Shomron Regional Council, which oversees a number of settlements in the West Bank, wrote on Twitter. “Hollywood producer Jason Blum lashes out against President #Trump at #Israeli Film festival in Los Angeles and gets booed and physically dragged of [sic] the stage.”
Director Judd Apatow and actress Jamie Lee Curtis were among those defending Blum.
Shame on that crowd for booing Jason Blum. Trump’s ongoing racism inspired a murderer last week. In the aftermath he continued to incite racism and hatred of the free press. He believes there are good Nazi’s. We need a President who inspires love and compassion. https://t.co/DfYyKUHrzR— Judd Apatow (@JuddApatow) November 7, 2018
I stand with and applaud @jason_blum and am proud of his statements and point of view and share his concerns. Interesting that the other nominee also shared concerns about immigration and anti semitism but was not met with the overt hostility that Jason was. https://t.co/527jnamYXm— Jamie Lee Curtis (@jamieleecurtis) November 7, 2018
Blum appeared to have a sense of humor about the incident, tweeting “well, this night went kinda haywire.”
But the producer’s enduring words on the matter came from his speech.
“If we are not accountable, we may wake up one day in a country we don’t even recognize,” he said. “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.”
PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture intern. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org