I caught the film on Thursday night at the Landmark Theater on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles, a few short miles from the heart of the biggest Jewish community this side of the Mississippi.I was the only person in the theater.
This is a problem.
I’m going to get a little more personal here than I usually get in these blog posts. As some of my readers know, I am a filmmaker, a practicing Jew, and an Israeli-American.
I’ve been frustrated to see that there’s really very little media that speaks directly to my sub-cultural experience. “Jewish” content in Hollywood tends to be trite and superficial, often written by Jews who, themselves, have very limited (perhaps once a year) contact with the Jewish faith. Israel, when it appears in films at all, is usually nothing more than a military/intelligence factory that produces Zohan-like super-spies.
I think that we (Jews and people with an affinity for Israel) have lost sight of the power of media (an irony, considering the anti-Semitic canard that we control media!) When “faith-based” films hit theaters, churches and other Christian groups buy entire blocks of tickets for weeks on end and hire busses and vans to shuttle their congregants to the multiplex. And it works: they get to enjoy their stories, stories that relate to their experience, stories that were made for them, and as a result, those films remain in multiplexes, get talked about in the press, and eventually reach other audiences that might not have much to do with the faith-based crowd. The economics speak for themselves, so more faith-based films get made with bigger budgets, bigger stars, and eventually, a much bigger audience.
But Jewish-themed and Israel-themed films simply haven’t been getting enough of an audience, so the simple task of getting them made is nearly impossible. Natalie Portman, with all of her star-power, had to fight for her film’s $4M budget (she produced “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” for $28M, which, I’m sure, was much easier to raise). Other filmmakers who want to make films for the Jewish audience have to fight just as hard, but raise much less. My own Jewish-themed feature was made for a tiny fraction of Portman’s budget, and I haven’t been able to raise any money for significant Jewish-themed projects since.