Film and television producer Jason Blum on Tuesday night was booed and physically removed from the stage after making controversial political statements during an acceptance speech at the 32nd Israeli Film Festival.
The Oscar-nominated producer of Get Out and the current Halloween sequel was presented with the 2018 IFF Achievement in Film & Television Award and suggested the recent uptick in anti-Semitism could be attributed to President Donald Trump, which was immediately met with several members of the crowd booing him.
“Tonight we have much to celebrate with the opening of the 32nd Israeli Film Festival, but at the same time today, Americans went to the polls to exercise our right to vote. I have been quietly checking my phone and we’re doing pretty well. The election results are pouring in as I speak and a lot is on the line,” said Blum, to which several audience members quipped, “Depends for who.”
“A lot is on the line — the last two years have been hard for all of us who cherish the freedom as citizens of this country,” Blum continued, immediately prompting boos directed at him.
“The great thing about this country is that you can like [Donald] Trump, but I don’t have to, and I can say what I feel about it — and I don’t like it!,” he responded as a few people started walking out of the Steve Tisch Cinema Center inside the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills.
Blum went on as the booing got louder and more aggressive, with shouting and whistling disrupting him.
“As you can see from this auditorium, it’s the end of civil discourse,” he continued. “We have a president who calls the press the enemy of the people. Thanks to our president, anti-Semitism is on the rise.”
Blum tried to speak further as a man approached the stage and aggressively attempted to pull Blum down. The person was identified as Yossi Dina, an Israeli pawnbroker who starred on a reality TV show called Beverly Hills Pawn.
More people rushed to interfere and Blum was asked to leave the stage as dozens left the auditorium in protest.
As Blum was exiting the stage, one of the people who rushed to help him was Israeli director Avi Nesher, the other honoree at the event who received the Cinematic Achievement Award earlier in the evening. During his acceptance speech, Nesher didn’t shy away from politics, either, but his comments didn’t spark a backlash.
“Americans [also] have their issues with some of the political leadership in this country,” Nesher said during his speech, comparing the situation to that in Israel. “I, too, am an American citizen and I, too, am worried about the state of affairs in this country. My parents are immigrants — twice, once to Israel and once to this country. I have been observing with horror the hate mongering which has become the order of the day for the American administration, and the Israeli one. That’s why we make movies. To entertain, but also to think.”
Nesher later added that his film The Other Story, which opened the festival after having its world premiere in September in Toronto, “deals with tolerance and the Israel audience responded to it with unprecedented success.” He remarked to The Hollywood Reporter that those who booed are “a small mob that is not to be confused with the Israel we represent … we are the absolute majority.”
IFF director and founder Meir Fenigstein told THR that “this is the first time we have ever experienced anything like this and I am in total shock, but I understand that this is a very tense day in America with the elections.”
He added: “This is not the place for politics, and I remain apolitical.”
“What we just experienced was an unfortunate event, a lack of democracy and freedom of expression,” said Israeli actress and In Treatment producer Noa Tishby outside the auditorium. “I am saddened by the response of the audience to the important criticism Jason Blum has voiced onstage. He should’ve been respected. I would like to apologize to Jason on behalf of the Israeli community. There were a lot more people in the audience who supported what he said.”
Security was already enhanced at the annual event, taking place 10 days after the massacre at a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh, including several metal detectors and armed policemen.
The Israeli Film Festival is sponsored by the Adelson Foundation, the charitable organization established by billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a vocal supporter of Trump. THR is a co-sponsor of the event.
Later on Tuesday, Blum tweeted, “Well, this night went kinda haywire.”
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) November 7, 2018