On the night of the midterm elections, Jason Blum—the horror producer behind hits like Get Out—delivered a speech at the Israel Film Festival in Los Angeles that ended in chaos. During his remarks, Blum made clear that he is nervous about the direction his country is going in—and that he is not a fan of Donald Trumps administration. At that point, some audience members booed and walked out of the theater. When Blum kept going with his speech, Beverly Hills Pawn cast member Yossi Dina approached the stage and tried to physically remove the producer from the podium, resulting in security rushing the stage to break up the sudden pandemonium.
Late Wednesday, the Israel Film Festival formally responded to the blowup, throwing its support behind Blum and his right to freedom of speech.
“We in no way condone violence but do wholeheartedly support dialogue that allows people to share ideas and viewpoints in a respectful way,” festival founder and director Meir Fenigstein said in a statement. “Sadly, some audience members at last nights opening greatly lacked that respect and turned an evening of celebration and recognition into something else.”
He continued, noting that “this is the first time we have ever experienced anything like this” at the festival. “I am in total shock, but I realize that yesterday [November 6] was a very tense day in America with the elections.” He also reiterated that no one affiliated with the festival tried to remove Blum from the stage. Rather, security ushered him off the stage to protect him from further harassment.
Heres the statement in full:
For 32 years, the Israel Film Festival in Los Angeles has presented more than 1,000 feature films, documentaries, television dramas, and short films to close to 1 million filmgoers and brought hundreds of Israeli filmmakers to the U.S. to share their art. Last night, at the opening of the 32nd edition, the festival honored two highly esteemed filmmakers, producer Jason Blum and writer-director Avi Nesher, for their great contributions to cinema. Through their work, they entertain audiences around the world. Their artistic expression and opinions are their own and, fortunately, the U.S. protects their freedom of speech. While some may not agree with ones point of view, many have fought and lost their lives for the very fundamental right to articulate their thoughts, opinions, and ideas without fear of retaliation.
“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,” said Meir Fenigstein, the festival director and founder. “We have often highlighted films that some may deem not to their liking or are controversial. 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 nights opening greatly lacked that respect and turned an evening of celebration and recognition into something else.
“This is the first time we have ever experienced anything like this,” Fenigstein continued. “I am in total shock, but I realize that yesterday was a very tense day in America with the elections.”
A majority of the 1,200-plus audience was respectful as Blum was making his remarks. 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.
After being taken offstage, Blum went ahead and tweeted out his original speech in full.
His political remarks began around the halfway point, when he referred to the election results that were then beginning to slowly pour in.
“We have seen the end of civil discourse,” Blum wrote. “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.”
He also discussed the divisive power of the Internet, and how its become a hub of hate speech that breeds violence. “What we saw in Pittsburgh was a horrific example,” Blum said, referring to the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue. “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.”
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Yohana DestaYohana Desta is a Hollywood writer for VanityFair.com.