Posted by Danielle Berrin
The most interesting scene by far of Mad Men’s season five premiere was not the party, when Don Draper’s new wife Megan sang a silly little ditty in a sexy little dress, thrusting her legs apart for extra effect (who was possibly in the mood for cutesy French fanfare the week after the Toulouse murders?). Still, the suggestive sketch was an apt lead-in for a later scene when the couple’s sordid psychosexual dynamics soaked an already soiled white carpet.
Disappointed that she failed to please her hubby with a surprise party (“Don’t waste money on things like that,” Don reprimands), Megan retaliates by withholding the one thing Don can’t do without - and it isn’t her housekeeping.
When one afternoon Don is told by a colleague that his wife is unwell and has left work early, he briskly packs his things as if led by her scent. He is a hungry dog, looking for food or a fight. When he finds her at home, cleaning the living room in colorful dishabille, he gets both.
Dropping his briefcase, then pouring a drink, he asks his wife why she is home.
“I was upset,” she declares. Then drops her robe, revealing lacy black undergarments. Don is cautious, amused, incredulous.
“What are you doing?” he asks.
“I’m cleaning up,” she snaps.
Ah, so he noticed. “Don’t you look at me,” she snarls. “Stop looking at me. You aren’t allowed to look at me.”
“Put some clothes on,” he replies with condescension.
Instead, Mrs. Draper haughtily drops on all fours, projecting her French derrier in his direction while lifting crumbs from the carpet. Her husband cannot avert his eyes.
“I said, stop it! You don’t deserve it,” she says, watching him watch her. It seems like dumb insistence since she’s so obviously taunting him, but really she knows her punishment is another gift; she wants him to be happy after all—that’s why she threw him a party.
The threat of her withholding is a powerful elixir. Don is stoked by her anger and her aim. He moves closer. She draws a sword.
“Besides,” she says, “you’re too old. I don’t need an old person who probably couldn’t do it anyway.”
If there is anything that ignites a man more than a naked woman on her knees, it is an insult to his sexual virility.
“Get up,” Don says, raising his voice and grabbing her arm to lift her from the floor.
“No,” she snipes. “I don’t want people to think you’re getting this.”
“You want it so badly,” he returns.
“I don’t want it! I don’t want you! You don’t get to have this,” she taunts. “Go sit over there. All you get to do is watch.”
Another pleasurable punishment. I don’t have to tell you that what happens next does not involve watching. Though, each party decidedly gets what they want.
For a show that has demonstrated a tendency to repeat its favorite tropes, of which sexism is one, this scene illustrates one of the more astute observations about sexual power. Namely, that it is a primary and practiced domain of women.
It is an unfortunate consequence of history that sexual power has been politicized as derogatory, unworthy and inadequate, when in fact, it remains of paramount importance. Yes, women have brains (try seducing a worthy man without one); yes, women have talent; and yes, women should be valued according to their preferred contributions, without sex determining their place in society. But when it comes to the private, interpersonal dynamics between men and women, sex is the most sustaining.
What occurs between Mr. and Mrs. Draper is not representative of backward mores. It does not subjugate a woman into a position of sexual vulnerability (which is what we so often see at the “Mad Men” workplace) but quite the opposite: Megan knows exactly what she wants (Don) and how to get him. She knows the particular blend of seduction and cunning that most turns him on and she is unabashed in her manipulation to draw closer to him. For them, a little pain leads to lots of pleasure.
Maybe the thing we ought to learn from the “backwards” sexism of mid-century America is that core power dynamics between the sexes remain the same. Sex is still the ultimate pleasure, a highly effective weapon and a precious commodity. Though these notions are regularly and systematically perverted in the world, they have their proper place between people. Maybe if more married couples engaged in sexual power play the way Don and Megan do, more married couples would stay married.
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March 23, 2012 | 3:27 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Queen Esther is an easy heroine.
Beautiful, brainy, and the savior of a people makes her effortless to admire, though she barely set a precedent for modern archetypes. Today, young girls are screaming for Katniss Everdeen, the kid-killing heroine of “The Hunger Games”, a film adapted from the bestselling trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Had the Queen been alive today, no doubt she’d be competing with movie stars to swell the circle of her influence.
“I’m just going to cry,” said one of hundreds of girls on line to meet 21-year-old “The Hunger Games” star Jennifer Lawrence at a Barnes and Noble in Union Square, according to a report from the New York Times.
“Hunger Mania” as its being called, refers to the fandom madness previously seen with the “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” franchises, though this time, the focus of all this adoration and idolatry is an unconventional female hero. Katniss is an unsentimental survivalist, who would probably not have chosen her savage destiny unless absolutely necessary (to heroically save her younger sister’s life), though she slips easily from domestic protector to wild, determined warrior.
In her review of the movie, the Times’ Manohla Dargis champions this rare bird, calling Katniss “[a] brilliant, possibly historic creation — stripped of sentimentality and psychosexual ornamentation, armed with Diana’s bow and a ferocious will[.]” Though the story does have its romance, it is hardly the heroine’s main focus. The fierce Katniss prefers to fight, not flirt. And she does not, as Dargis proudly notes, need a man to save her. “Again and again,” Dargis writes, “Katniss rescues herself with resourcefulness, guts and true aim, a combination that makes her insistently watchable[.]”
To whom in the modern world might Katniss compare? Especially when the real-life hero for so many of the story’s fans will inevitably become the actors that bring the tale to life. Could a female stateswoman such as Hillary Clinton become the object of modern female fantasy, even if, she may not be her husband’s? Or perhaps the Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, who frightened away Liberian dictator Charles Taylor not with sword, but with smarts, savvy and song?
But the modern Esthers hardly elicit girlish screams of delight, or even legions of fans. Why does the warrior on the screen not translate to the warriors of the world?
Instead, even Dargis, who must have female idols of her own, resorts to a biblical babe in order to identify Katniss squarely in American cultural consciousness. “Unlike those American Adams who have long embodied the national character with their reserves of hope, innocence and optimism, Katniss springs from someplace else, a place in which an American Eve, battered, bruised and deeply knowing, scrambles through a garden not of her making on her way to a new world.”
It’s a compelling fantasy: the lone, strong-willed woman needing nothing from the realm of the heart on her strident walk through the world—her loveliness from love lost, her worldliness from devastating disappointment. She relinquishes her need for intimacy because nothing she’s ever been close to has she been able to keep.
Strange then, that in the same weekend in which this is the vision of womanhood most vaunted, a heroine of a different sort also emerges. In “The Deep Blue Sea” based on a play by the British playwright Terence Rattigan, Rachel Weisz plays a woman of immense depth whose sole ambition is love. “She is at once a sensible, capable, intelligent Englishwoman and a mad, keening martyr for love,” writes A.O. Scott in The Times. “Or at least that is what she wants to be.”
Is she less admirable for choosing love over ambition? Weak because her torment is internal and not externalized in some deadly dystopian wilderness? As if the strength required for survival is always physical, and not—even at a time when wars are being fought—located closer to the domain of the soul.
Because even a girl who wins “Hunger Games” is a body at best. The achievements of the measured world an ever transient feat. What of her character will survive when her spear gives out?
March 22, 2012 | 1:45 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Two weeks ago, filmmaker Jason Russell was on top of the world. The author of the explosive “Kony 2012” video, a call to action against Ugandan war lord Joseph Kony, saw his grassroots passion project go viral on the Internet and become an international sensation. In a matter of days, tens of millions of viewers from all over the world watched his 30 minute part-autobiographical, part-documentary account of the horrors Kony has imposed upon Ugandan civilians, and especially children, bringing worldwide attention to the cause he most wanted to champion. Covered widely in press, the video has since been viewed more than 84 million times, making it one of the most popular videos in YouTube’s history.
But now, after a bizarre public act that got him arrested in San Diego last week, things have taken a stark turn. After Russell was taken into custody last week, San Diego police found it necessary to hospitalize the 33-year-old filmmaker whose behavior was strange enough to warrant medical attention. According to the Los Angeles Times, doctors diagnosed him with “brief reactive psychosis”, a seemingly temporary condition that prompted him to parade around public streets in the nude and possibly even masturbate before passerby.
The behavior hardly coheres with Russell’s image as a clean-cut social change agent, whose all-American, boy-next-door looks became the face of an online revolution. But, what at first seemed like an isolated episode of awkward, freakish behavior could be more serious. This morning, Russell’s wife Danica told reporters he may hospitalized for months. She also suggested his psychic break may have been the result of hurt feelings: “Because of how personal the film is, many of the attacks against it were also very personal and Jason took them very hard,” the family said in a statement.
I don’t know much about mental illness, except that it can occur in the most normal of people. My friend Emma Forrest, whom I’ve known for five years, has never struck me as unhinged. And yet, as she details in her memoir “Your Voice in My Head” (soon to become a movie helmed by “Harry Potter” director David Yates and starring Emma Watson) her body has long been a warm, temperate climate for madness.
Here’s a beautiful meditation from her book:
“Mania flows like a river approaching a waterfall. Depression is a stagnant lake. There are dead things floating and the water has the same blue-black tinge as your lips. You stay completely still because you’re so afraid of what is brushing your leg, (even though it could be nothing because your mind is already gone). That’s why you lay in your bed, (in the centre, with my dark blue sheets. The silver curtains are a nod to mania. They were something that seemed like a good idea at the time). My bras are hung on the wall behind my bed, crucified for my sins. I have thirty six bras. I counted. I hold my hands over my breasts in my days and weeks and months in bed, as if someone might steal them.”
March 16, 2012 | 4:10 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Well, this is awkward: The L.A. Times is reporting that filmmaker Jason Russell, whose Youtube video “Kony 2012” about Ugandan war lord Joseph Kony went viral last week, garnering 80 million views and spawning a social justice movement, was reportedly found “masturbating in public and vandalizing cars,” according to San Diego police.
That’s certainly one way to enlarge your message.
Read more at the L.A. Times:
Ben Keesey, CEO of Invisible Children, released a statement saying that Russell was hospitalized and suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, and malnutrition.
“He is now receiving medical care and is focused on getting better,” according to the statement. “The past two weeks have taken a severe emotional toll on all of us, Jason especially, and that toll manifested itself in an unfortunate incident yesterday. Jason’s passion and his work have done so much to help so many, and we are devastated to see him dealing with this personal health issue. We will always love and support Jason, and we ask that you give his entire family privacy during this difficult time.”
March 16, 2012 | 2:49 pm
Posted by JewishJournal
The 26th Annual Israel Film Festival opened in Los Angeles Thursday night, March 16, with a gala at Paramount Studios honoring the actor Jonah Hill, Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa, the creators of the Showtime series “Homeland,” and Showtime President David Nevins.
About 300 people walked down a red carpet then swirled about wine and hors d’oeuvres before taking a seat in the theatre to watch an awards ceremony M.C.’d by comedian Elon Gold (“I’m the Jewish Jerry Seinfeld”) and featuring speeches by Israel’s Minister of Culture and Sport Limor Livnat, Consul General of Israel David Siegel, Festival founder and director Meir Fenigstein, festival co-chair Arnon Milchan and, finally, Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill.
Speeches over, the audience then watched the L.A. premiere of the Israeli feature film “Restoration,” a moving contemporary story about a tempestuous father-son relationship.
Here were the highlights:
1. When Seth Rogen (finally) took the stage to introduce his best bud Jonah Hill, his first words were, “Wow. That was a lot of Jews.”
2. “Homeland” Co-Creator Howard Gordon, who adapted the Emmy Award winning show from the Israeli TV series “Hatufim” on receiving his Israel Film Festival Achievement Award: “Israel may not have oil, but it has talent. There’s something very special going on there.”
3. Elon Gold on Jonah Hill’s co-star in Moneyball. “Brad Pitt is so pretty he’s actually a shiksa.”
4. Alex Gansa, who also produced the hot show “24” with Howard Gordon, thanks “Hatufim’s’ Gideon Raff and Avi Nir and added: “’Homeland’ and ‘24’ demonstrate the very very steep price of war. In that spirit we send out a prayer for peace.”
5. Another great Seth Rogen line: “I haven’t been here the whole time. Who won Best Circumcision?”
6. Israel Consul General David Siegel recounted the stats of Israeli film success: 4 Oscar nominations in 5 years; 11 American TV shows based on Israeli shows; the most acclaimed show in America, “Homeland,” adapted from an Israeli series. “This is the golden age of Israeli Jewish creativity,” said Siegel.
7. Producer Arnon Milchan went off script to call to Jonah Hill in the audience.
“Jonah,” Milchan said, “Come on stage for a moment, I want to ask you a question.”
“Ask me from here,” Hill called out from the audience. The actor had brought his friend Seth Rogen to introduce him- not Milchan. “I brought someone to introduce me,” Hill said. “You’re ruining everything!”
Milchan relented. “Jonah,” he said, “Do you want to be in a movie called ‘True Story?’”
“Yes,” Jonah said.
“Well, you’re in,” said Milchan.
8. Minister Livnat’s speech struck an oddly belligerent tone at one point. Referring to Iran’s Academy Award this year for the beautiful movie, “A Separation,” she said, “Make no mistake, the winning of the Iranians over the Israelis is something that can happen only in the movies.”
9. A better take came from Elon Gold: “Iran actually beat Israel in the Best Foreign Film category at the Oscars. But don’t worry. Israel will get them back when they beat Iran in World War III.”
10.When Jonah Hill goes up to receive his Israel Film Festival Achievement in Film Award, he thanks his friend Seth Rogen, and thanks the Israel Film Festival. “I’d also like to thank Israel for creating a home base for our people,” he adds, to great applause. “And also I’d like to thank Israel for Natalie Portman. We all adore her.”
For a complete schedule of Festival films, click here.
March 16, 2012 | 10:28 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
When I was in Kindergarten my big dream was to be a policewoman someday, and I hadn’t regretted the decision not to pursue that path until this morning, when I heard George Clooney was arrested for civil disobedience.
As I reported yesterday, Clooney was in Washington D.C. for the week to raise awareness about an endangered civilian population in Sudan’s Nuba Mountain region that has increasingly become a target of government-sponsored missile attacks. A planned protest set to take place outside the Sudanese Embassy occurred earlier this morning, where Clooney was arrested alongside a supportive cohort that included two rabbis and the L.A.-based director of Jewish World Watch, Fred Kramer.
Protesters had gathered to demand an end to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s blockade of food and humanitarian aid to the region, predicted to reach famine levels later this month. Bashir’s militia has been ceaselessly bombing fields in order to intimidate villagers and coerce an exodus from the region. In a Youtube video of his recent visit, Clooney highlights the dangers of fields littered with unexploded bombs, which prevents villagers from harvesting crops and has forced families to retreat to living in caves. In the video, Clooney visits with maimed children and stands over a dead body, lying unattended in a field.
As he was handcuffed and led away from the embassy earlier today, Clooney told reporters, “I’m just trying to raise attention.” According to The Guardian, he emphasized the plight of Sudan’s children, saying, “Stop raping them and stop starving them…That’s all that we ask.”
After Clooney’s release Friday afternoon, he also told reporters: “It’s actually a humiliating thing to be arrested no matter what you do, but I’m glad to be standing here with my father. You never know if you are accomplishing anything ... We hope it helps,” adding, according to The Guardian that this was his first arrest and “let’s hope it’s my last.”
Despite Clooney’s celebrity, the Youtube video he created has not gone viral as “Kony 2012” did, another video account of crimes committed by an African war lord, though it currently clocks an estimable 86,000 views. Like the situation with Ugandan militant leader Joseph Kony, who recruits vulnerable children into his Lord’s Resistance Army, the crimes in Sudan also appear to be, at least in part, religiously motivated. Arab leaders, including President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Defense Minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein, and former interior minister Ahmad Haroun (who were all also also charged with Darfur-related war crimes by the International Criminal Court, according to The Daily Beast) currently control the Sudanese government and are attempting to force Sudan’s black residents to flee.
Clooney, who has been advocating on behalf of Sudanese civilians for almost a decade, has used his celebrity to set this issue before the highest ranks of U.S. power. In Washington, he reportedly met with President Obama, Secretary Clinton and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, before the culminating protest on Friday morning. Also present at the protest were Rabbi Steve Gutow, president for the Jewish Council for Public
Affairs, Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism and Ian Schwab, associate policy director for American Jewish World Service.
On Tuesday night, Clooney appeared at the Council on Foreign Relations discussing the issue, and last night, attended a White House dinner for British Prime Minister David Cameron, where he was eminently seated next to First Lady Michelle Obama.
March 15, 2012 | 2:16 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
In the ceaseless work of repairing the world, George Clooney will rub shoulders with two activist rabbis, who will join him tomorrow at the Sudanese Embassy in Washington to protest the Sudanese government’s blockade of food and humanitarian aid to endangered citizens.
The actor has been crusading on behalf of Sudanese civilians for nearly a decade, though the situation remains dire. Clooney has apparently found two allies in Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism and Rabbi Steve Gutow, president for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, who will join him for at least one leg of a Washington trip that will reportedly culminate with meetings with President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, according to The Daily Beast.
Earlier this week, Clooney made an illegal trip to the oil rich region of the Nuba Mountains in central Sudan, where the Arab-dominated Sudanese government has been conducting missile strikes against its own citizens. Much like the situation in Sderot, Israel, where inhabitants live in fear of aerial attacks, Clooney captured the everyday challenges these Sudanese villagers face in a Youtube video.
But while Clooney’s celebrity has brought needed attention to the region, it has not resolved the conflict. Clooney told the Council on Foreign Relations Tuesday night that the situation is worse than ever.
The battle for survival in a hostile environment is a familiar struggle for Jews the world over, who have been subjected to the worst impulses of humanity over the course of their existence. Let this be a wake-up call and rallying cry that no one should rest until the whole world is redeemed.
From an Associated Press report on Clooney’s work:
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — In the second YouTube video in a week to highlight an African conflict, George Clooney makes an illegal and dangerous trip to the southern reaches of Sudan, where the actor witnesses what an American activist said Thursday was likely a Chinese-made missile sail overhead.
Clooney’s four-minute video highlights attacks on civilians in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains, a region that U.S. officials say could soon suffer a severe hunger crisis. The video comes about a week after a YouTube sensation about Joseph Kony, the leader of the brutal Central Africa militia the Lord’s Resistance Army.
In the Clooney video, which he wrote and directed, a man from the Nuba community is seen pushing Clooney to take cover after a rocket sails overhead. Mothers carrying children and young children lugging water jugs can be seen moving toward the rock caves.
Ryan Boyette, an American who lives in the Nuba Mountains, said Sudan’s military has been launching large, Chinese-made rockets against civilians — not military forces with the rebel group known as the SPLM-N. Boyette said most of the rocket victims are caught off guard because they don’t know the rocket is approaching.
During his advocacy work in Sudan, Clooney helped found the Satellite Sentinel Project, which uses satellite imagery to monitor activities of war.
March 12, 2012 | 6:26 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Just before 11a.m. on the morning of March 9, a Friday, a small group of journalists made their way through the DreamWorks Animation studio in Glendale, moving from a small boardroom stocked with cold refreshments and and a screen playing “Kung Fu Panda,” to an outdoor courtyard where Israeli President Shimon Peres was scheduled to speak.
As the group filed past the cozy, living-room style executive suite lit warmly with natural light and bright, neon-colored fish tanks, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg stepped out of his office. “Wow, nice,” Katzenberg crowed, reacting to what clearly seemed to him to be ample media attendance. “It’s a little warm out there,” he teased. “Stay in the shade.”
Downstairs and outside in 80-degree heat, the group was led across the property, past winding grassy walkways, giant rectangular koi ponds and endless lounge areas, before proceeding through security, which was carefully coordinated by American secret service. Already assembled in the courtyard was a mass of DreamWorks employees, sipping Starbucks and tinkering with their iPhones. No one yet seemed to mind sweltering in the Glendale sun, which was to be their destiny for the next hour, while Peres received a private tour of the studio.
“It’s not everyday you get the president of a country,” said Aaron Cimity, 28, a production coordinator at the studio, explaining why he had absconded from his desk to hear Peres speak.
“How often do you hear a head of state in your own work environment?” added Michele Davis, a budget manager, who was seated with a group of her colleagues on the concrete rim of a large, circular fountain. Although her boss, Katzenberg, is known to host inspirational “DreamTalks” with an array of guest speakers that have included directors, dignitaries, and even astronauts, this was the first time for such a high-ranking international leader.
“Jeffrey’s pretty connected,” said Ethan Hagge, a storyboard artist in his mid-20s, who was camped out in the shade with two colleagues. “Obama’s head campaigning guy was here two weeks ago. That was pretty impressive.”
Also present for a private meet-and-greet with the Israeli president—though unseen until speech time—was an elite group of 13 Hollywood leaders, including Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand (the group’s only female), Billy Crystal, CBS President Les Moonves, Universal Studios chief Ron Meyer, Sony Pictures Studios chairman Michael Lynton, billionaire mogul Haim Saban, Israeli producer Arnon Milchan and others, along with Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, Los Angeles Consul General David Siegel and Simon Wiesenthal dean and founder, Rabbi Marvin Hier.
DreamWorks takes seriously its role as both industry leader and influencer, said Mark Dizon, who works in global human resources. “Diversity is important here at DreamWorks. This event is a nice crossroads point between entertainment and politics. Why not use our voice to spread the news?”
On a grassy knoll near the top of the fountain, Daniela Mazzacuto, a production manager, was reading Peres’ wikipedia entry aloud to her co-workers. “We didn’t know he was related to Lauren Bacall!” she gasped. “I didn’t realize he was born in Poland either.”
While the DreamWorks staff is visibly diverse—many appeared to be of Asian, Indian and African-American descent—few in the crowd were up to date on Israeli affairs.
“I Googled him,” admitted Anand Karnati, 30, who works in the information technology department. “I saw that he was involved in Israeli politics. Some say he’s a decision maker; he was a Prime Minister two times.”
“I know he’s not Netanyahu, but he’s still important,” said storyboard artist Vi-Dieu Nguyen, who is in his mid-20s.
Next to him, Ethan Hagge made light of the occasion. “I figure I got frisked so I might as well come down here,” he said, offering his take on the President’s visit. “I think he wants to see celebrities. I think, secretly, his favorite movie is ‘Shrek’ and he wants to see who made it.”
Standing near the stage, Terri Anderson, 52, said she anticipated an eloquent speech. “My friend texted me this morning that his voice is like satin,” she said of Peres.
“Here at Dreamworks, we imagine and we create heroes,” Katzenberg began, before introducing Peres to a crowd cresting in the hundreds. “Today we are blessed in that we’re actually receiving a visit from a real hero.” Katzenberg went on to describe Peres as “a soldier, a statesman, a politician, a peacemaker.”
Peres, clearly, is also a charmer. He wooed the crowd by thanking DreamWorks’ staff on behalf of the youth in Israel. “They love you,” he said. “You may think you have a vocation, but the children feel you have a mission; you bring them dreams and hope and an unknown world and a promise.”
During his 7-minute speech, Peres focused on the power of dreams.
“The American dream was really created here in Hollywood,” he said. “I don’t know what influenced the world more—the American Constitution or the American dream…so we are copying you. We want the Israeli dream.”
Peres went on to draw parallels between Hollywood and Israel, speaking of the cooperation between the two industries and comparing their origins. When California was founded, he said, many thought it too wild with wind and fire to inhabit. “You started as a mistake, and we started as a doubt. But look what you can do from a mistake, and look what you can do from a doubt.”
Afterwards, Peres attended a private, off-the-record luncheon with the Hollywood A-list, where he entertained questions about the Middle East for nearly two hours. According to Rabbi Marvin Hier, who was present and whose friendship with Katzenberg helped realize the event, the discussion was broad and detailed.
“I was very surprised how knowledgeable and intelligent the questions were,” Hier said. “The leaders of the entertainment industry that attended knew very well the current burning issues [facing Israel]. The president hardly had a chance to chew his piece of fish. The questions came one after another, after another. Jeffrey said, ‘Let the President eat!’ and he said ‘No, no, no, let’s keep this going…’”
Though Hier insisted there were a wide range of questions, Ron Meyer, president of Universal Studios, said the discussion focused mainly on Iran and the U.S.-Israel relationship. “People showed up because they’re certainly interested in what’s going on in the world, and the potential crisis with Iran…and Netanyahu’s relationship with Obama—those were the topics people cared the most about.”
Despite the tough subjects, Meyer said the experience was revelatory.
“He is really one of the most extraordinary speakers I’ve ever heard; his recall and his wisdom I found extraordinary. I did not expect that, and I was overwhelmed.”
Haim Saban, an advocate and fundraiser for Israel at the highest level, has met with Peres on several occasions, though he said, “Listening to President Peres speak is always an inspiring experience.” Saban would not reveal further details about the conversation in order to honor the President’s wishes.
“I’m very proud of the president, the way he handled himself,” Hier said. “He did not apologize for Israel—he didn’t say Israel was without warts, no country is—but he was speaking to people who are participating in shaping the modern world, and he made a strong case for Israel.”
One thing Hier revealed was what Peres opined about Judaism. “He said that the single most important contribution of Judaism to the world was being unsatisfied. He said ‘Jews are never satisfied’; Jews without a land, without resources have come so far, because when you’re not satisfied, you dream on.”
Earlier, speaking to the crowd, Peres had paid homage to that very idea when talking about Hollywood’s Jewish origins. “I know among the founders of Hollywood there were many Jewish people,” he said. “Because they didn’t have a land, they had to have a dream.”
Then, drawing on the Jewish destiny, Katzenberg presented Peres with a literal rendering of the Jewish dream: an original piece of art from “The Prince of Egypt”—DreamWorks’ first animated feature—that depicts the scene just before the Israelites cross the sea into the promised land.
Three animators who have been with DreamWorks since its beginning, and who worked on “The Prince of Egypt” recalled in detail that precious scene.
“That was the top of the hill, before they cross the Red Sea, as they’re coming over the top,” Lorenzo Martinez, 56, explained. “It’s all sittin’ there in front of them, and they’re goin’, ‘How are we gonna get through this?’ That’s a great choice Jeffrey made. It’s a metaphor.”