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Israel’s ‘Incitement’ follows a man on the path from student to assassin

Yehuda Nahari Halevi in a scene from the Israeli film “Incitement.”
Yehuda Nahari Halevi in a scene from the Israeli film “Incitement,” which follows Yigal Amir, the man who assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
(Greenwich Entertainment)

The Envelope Live Screening Series continued last month at the Montalbán in Hollywood with an Oscar contender for international feature: “Incitement,” Israel’s official submission.

The film looks inside the radicalization of young Yigal Amir, the law student who assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The screening on Nov. 20 was followed by a Q&A with director Yaron Zilberman, writer Ron Leshem, star Yehuda Nahari Halevi and Dalia Rabin, the daughter of Yitzhak Rabin. The Times’ Jeffrey Fleishman moderated the discussion.

“The fact that … the box-office records are incredibly high and there was never a political film that ever achieved these numbers is astonishing,” Leshem said. “At the same time, what is important to us is it’s no longer the left or the peace forces that are coming to listen to what they believe in; it’s people who are giving it a chance as a kind of a national reckoning, an urgent one, that is trying to look at ourselves in a way of ‘Are we too violent in our way of life, in our speech, in our day-to-day debates? In the way we treat other ideas?’

“But when we started, it was the summer where we were fighting in Gaza again and ... on television you could see people shouting in the streets of Tel Aviv, ‘Death to leftists’ and ‘Death to liberals’ and ‘Death to’ whatever.”

“Incitement” writer Ron Leshem at an Envelope Live Screening Series Q&A.
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Dalia Rabin said, “I think one of the major roles of this movie is to surface the atmosphere leading to the assassination. The incitement. We were living in an atmosphere of very, very fierce demonstrations led by politicians using religious people — religious people that thought that land is more important than human life.”

Dalia Rabin, daughter of the assassinated Israeli Prime Minister, at an Envelope Live Screening Series Q&A.

Zilberman, who had previously directed the well-regarded “A Late Quartet,” spoke of the deep dive into the mind of Amir and the process of manufacturing killers that is scarily present today.

“It took us about six years to make the movie and about five years of that, we were really into deep research. And what we learned was that Yigal Amir was … not a monster, someone sitting underground, throwing darts at a picture of Rabin. Instead we realized we’re talking about a totally different person. I would say, relatively speaking, a normative political activist that turned with incitement, both political and religious, and also in the university, into the person that would end up assassinating Rabin,” he said.

“And that process, we see all over the world. So when we see leaders using inflammatory language, as we say, ‘populist’ language, that turns out unfortunately to be an advantage in elections … the result is, eventually, violence erupts. We see that in our story … and also in the U.S., big time.”

“Incitement” director Yaron Zilberman at an Envelope Live Screening Series Q&A.

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