The Israel Film Festival has released a statement after Jason Blum was booed offstage Wednesday night while making remarks critical of Donald Trump while he was accepting an award. The speech came in the midst of midterm election results being reported, which made it a “very tense day,” the festival said.
Festival director Meir Fenigstein attributed the incident to “some audience members” who “greatly lacked that respect” and said that the festival did not remove Blum; rather, he was asked to step down from the stage for his own safety.
Blum, who was receiving the festival’s Achievement in Film & Television Award, started his acceptance speech by saying, “The great thing about this country is that you can like Trump, but I don’t have to, and I can say what I feel about it — and I don’t like it!”
Some audience members then began to walk out of the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills as the boos and shouting broke out.
“As you can see from this auditorium, it’s the end of civil discourse,” Blum continued. “We have a president who calls the press the enemy of the people. Thanks to our president, anti-semitism is on the rise.”
When a man approached and tried to pull Blum offstage, security was called to escort Blum offstage and the man backed off.
The statement reads:
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 one 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 one’s 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 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 night’s 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+ 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.