It was kind of like having dinner out with a member of the Trump administration Tuesday night at the opening of the 32nd Israel Film Festival in Beverly Hills.
Award recipient Jason Blum got a taste of the other side when he spoke out against President Trump amid a crowd that expected to be at a film festival, not a political rally. After being shouted at, whistled down and having someone pull at his arm while he resisted, the Blumhouse Productions founder left the stage on his own.
“I didn’t even dream that could happen,” festival director Meir Fenigstein told The Times on Wednesday morning, noting that he intended to reach out to Blum and apologize. “It was the wrong day, the day of the election, and everyone was on their toes on the right and on the left. He had his own view and he wanted to share it. … Some of the people didn’t like it.
“He didn’t expect probably to get a reaction like that in L.A.,” Fenigstein added.
The “Halloween,” “Whiplash” and “Get Out” producer was being honored with an award for achievement in film and TV along with Israeli director-writer Avi Nesher, who had just gotten a cinematic achievement award at the kickoff event at the Saban Theatre.
Blum’s acceptance speech started with thanks to the IFF and praise for Nesher, then veered into a discussion about American politics. Per his Twitter feed later that night, where he transcribed his entire speech, he mentioned that it was election day and continued.
“[S]o much is on the line. 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,” he said in his Twitter thread.
“We have seen the end of civil discourse. 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,” Blum said.
It’s unclear which comments set the audience off — Fenigstein said it wasn’t a specific line — but set off it was, booing and whistling over Blum as he kept speaking, as seen in video from event sponsor the Hollywood Reporter. Fenigstein said a man jumped on stage and told Blum to leave.
"Stop it! Doesn't he get the message?" asked a person in the crowd, audible in the background of the Hollywood Reporter video above.
As if to answer that unheard question, Blum said, "They're going to have to drag me off the stage.”
“It’s a film festival, it’s not a political rally,” a voice shouted from the crowd. “It’s a film festival!”
Blum ultimately finished speaking and left the stage after an IFF staffer called for security on stage.
“Well, this night went kinda haywire,” Blum tweeted sometime later.
A call Wednesday to a Blumhouse International rep was not immediately returned.
“This country has a really strong freedom of speech,” Fenigstein said. “The thing that should have happened was someone going on stage and getting things back on track.” Shouting Blum down, he said, “shouldn’t have happened.”
A few people left the event, Fenigstein said, and a few others left and came back. Nesher’s “The Other Story” screened and “ one thousand people watched the film and enjoyed it,” Fenigstein said. “They’re not blaming the festival.”
Blum was supposed to say whatever he wanted to say, according to Fenigstein, but he also noted that it was a cultural event, not a political one.
“The publicity right now, I’ve never had this before in 32 years of the festival,” he said. Israeli media outlets had been calling him for comment since 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.
“It’s my luck that I chose such a great day to do the opening,” he said wryly. “An actor told me, ‘You’re so smart — you know how to get the press.’”