Posted by Naomi Pfefferman
Judge Judy said she needs “a day to chill” in the hospital after being whisked to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center—in an ambulence—following symptoms of stomach distress today, TMZ reported. “I’m really fine,” the 68-year-old Judith Sheindlin, a.k.a. TV’s sometimes irascible Judge Judy, told TMZ’s Harvey Levin. “I wanted to go back to work this afternoon. I’m exhausted. I’m tired. A lot of things just zoned together, including the bad news of the world. At my age, I know my body. My body is fine.”
Sheindlin, host of the syndicated courtroom reality show “Judge Judy,” has hardly been benched by her experience: she should return home on Thursday.
Described by Forbes as one of the 20 richest women in entertainment (actually she was number 13 in 2007), the tough-talking judge got her start in 1976 when then-Mayor Ed Koch appointed her to New York’s criminal court and in 1980, as Manhattan’s supervising family court judge.
Judge Judy has Jewish credentials, too. Born Judith Susan Blum to German Jews in Brooklyn, she was raised in a traditional household but has described herself as more of a cultural Jew, she told the Jewish World Review some years ago: “Indeed, under Judge Judy’s robe still beats the heart of a Jewish mother,” the story said. “When she was [once] profiled on Entertainment Tonight, she managed to slip in several times that her ‘handsome son’ was unmarried and looking.”
While the Jewish judge has no plans to sit on her local Beit Din, it’s reported that her current show should continue at least until 2013, its 17th season.
Stay well, Judge Judy!
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March 29, 2011 | 5:39 pm
Posted by Naomi Pfefferman
While watching Todd Haynes’ stunning adaptation of “Mildred Pierce” in a nourish mini-series for HBO, I recalled the first time I viewed a production by this brilliant (and yes, Jewish) writer-director: Edward Albee’s, “The Zoo Story,” which Haynes directed and starred in at a professional theater in Hollywood in the 1970s.
Haynes was all of 13, and a classmate at Gaspar de Portola Junior High School (now middle school) in Tarzana. In the seventh grade, we’d eat lunch every day among the same circle of friends who met under a tree near the cafeteria, where Todd would often show us the intricate pen drawings he had made to illustrate various creative ideas. Even then he was talking about issues of identity – and his own emerging gay identity— that would later surface in his nuanced cinematic explorations of race, gender, and sexuality.
“Far From Heaven” (2003) is Haynes’ homage to the 1950s melodramas of Douglas Sirk, who fled Hitler to Hollywood and transformed “women’s pictures” into slyly subversive critiques of American social taboos. “I’m Not There” (2007) divided Bob Dylan’s life into six personae, each represented by a different actor; while “Mildred Pierce” tackles social class and gender anxiety in a faithful adaptation of James M. Cain’s gritty 1941 novel (compared to the weepier 1945 movie starring Joan Crawford).
What I didn’t know about Todd back in junior high was that he counted Judaism as an important aspect of his personal identity; I had always assumed he was non-Jewish, and was surprised to learn—decades later—that he is, in fact, a member of the tribe. When I interviewed him about “Far From Heaven” in 2003, he explained that his mother is Jewish, his father is not, and while he grew up in a non-religious household, he is “damned proud” to be an MOT. Laughing, he added that he wished his surname didn’t sound so WASPy.
When asked about his relationship with “Far From Heaven’s” composer, Elmer Bernstein (who won his final Oscar for “Heaven’s” score), Haynes said: “Elmer and I became friends very fast, which I think has a lot to do with being Jewish, left-leaning and interested in the arts.”
Bernstein (1922-2004) reminded Haynes of his charismatic grandfather, Arnold Semler, who died in 2001, and to whom “Far From Heaven” is dedicated. Semler was a son of Romanian and Polish immigrants who started out in the Warner Bros. mail room in the 1930s and worked his way up to head of set construction and union organizer. A Communist Party member, he quit his job during the McCarthy-era blacklists and founded a communications and electronics business.
Over his brown bag lunch back at Portola, Haynes spoke often and with great admiration about his grandfather, but it was not until our 2003 interview that I realized the scope of Semler’s influence. “My grandfather identified with the history of Jewish struggle,” Haynes said. “All my films are about resilient outsiders, whether in terms of race or sexual orientation, and I think I inherited that from [him].”
“Mildred Pierce” is Haynes latest saga of a resilient outsider: as played by Kate Winslet, the character pulls herself up by the proverbial bootstraps from working class to upper class, has an affair with an aristocratic Lothario (Guy Pearce) but remains reviled by her spoiled, pretentious daughter, Veda (Evan Rachel Wood), to tragic effect.
Mare Winningham, by the way, is superb as Mildred’s blunt waitress co-worker, Ida, who winds up running Pierce’s business empire.
Parts 1, 2 and 3 of the “Mildred Pierce” mini-series will continue airing this week; parts 4 and 5 will air on April 3 and April 10.
March 23, 2011 | 5:25 pm
Posted by Naomi Pfefferman
Palestinian author Rula Jebreal bears an uncanny resemblance to Freida Pinto, the Indian actress who portrays the writer’s alter ego in Julian Schnabel’s new film, “Miral.” So it was not surprising that the filmmaker initially assumed Jebreal was Indian when they met in 2007 at the opening of an exhibition of Schnabel’s paintings in Rome.
“I said, ‘No, I am actually from Israel,’” Jebreal, 38, said in a telephone interview from Manhattan, where she now lives with Schnabel. “I don’t know if I would say he had a knee-jerk reaction, but his expression changed from smiling to almost a tension, like he had never seen a Palestinian before. So I asked, “Are you scared or something?’” And he replied, ‘Should I be scared?’—that is how we started talking.”
It was only by chance that Jebreal, a prominent television journalist living in Rome, had attended the opening at all. Her friend, Walter Veltroni, Rome’s mayor, mentioned to her over lunch that she should check out the exhibition – and that Schnabel was the only adult besides Hugh Hefner known for wearing pajamas in public.
“When I saw his paintings that night, they spoke to me,” she recalled. Some captured images and impressions of Egypt, which gave her the sense that Schnabel regarded her culture with dignity and compassion. “I felt there is a place in his work that speaks to everyone, and relates to the major issues I care about,” she added.
Soon after the opening, she sent the artist-filmmaker a copy of her autobiographical novel, “Miral,” which recounts her painful childhood and her coming of age during the first Intifada in 1987. Also attached was a rough English translation of a screenplay adaptation of the book, which was originally published in Italian in 2004.
“Three weeks later, Julian called and said he would like to work on this project together,” Jebreal said.
Some time between that telephone call and the completion of the film, the Jewish artist and the Palestinian author fell in love and began living together in Schnabel’s duplex within Palazzo Chupi, a pink complex he built in Greenwich Village.
When did Jebreal learn that Schnabel was Jewish?
“I don’t pay attention to these things,” she said. “I am Muslim, my daughter is Catholic, and I never classify people based on color, gender or religion. Honestly I did not care. I met the human being, I met his work; nothing else mattered.”
Jebreal’s own story is heartbreaking. Everything in “Miral,” the novel and the film, is true, she said, not only about herself, but also about her family. Her mother, Nadia, was repeatedly raped by her stepfather as a child, ran away from home as a teenager, supported herself as a belly dancer and served time in jail for slapping an Israeli woman who had affronted her.
Eventually, she married Othman Jebreal, a gentle, almost saintly man who worked as a gardener and later, as a minor imam at the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. He vowed to save her, but Nadia was unable to overcome her brutal childhood and descended into alcoholism and depression, eventually committing suicide by drowning herself in the Mediterranean, leaving behind her daughters, Rula, 5, and Rania, 4.
Because Othman Jebreal was already suffering from cancer, he took his girls to live at Hind Husseini’s Children’s Home in the Old City of Jerusalem, hoping that there they could receive an education and find safe haven when he was gone.
“Hind was very strong, dedicated and affectionate to her ‘daughters,’ who numbered about 3,000,” Jebreal said. “She believed education could give us the opportunity to survive, because she saw what was happening in many villages where girls had no option except to marry at 13 or 14, to become prostitutes or to be manipulated and used by religious fanatics, which she did not want for her girls.”
Even so, the early years were difficult for Jebreal, who felt “alone, abandoned, fearful” and who devoured books about orphans such as “Oliver Twist,” “David Copperfield,” and especially “Jane Eyre.” She learned to tell stories, at first, to heal her sister, who repeatedly attempted to scale the orphanage’s walls to run home; and then to the other orphans who crowded together in bed at night, seeking the physical affection they missed from their parents. Those experiences, in part, led Jebreal to become a writer.
Another turning point came when Jebreal was sent by Husseini to teach in a makeshift school in a refugee camp on the West Bank when she was 16. “I was shocked by the kind of oppression that seemed unbearable,” she recalled of the camp. There, Jebreal met and fell in love with an older man, an activist with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine; against the wishes of Hind and of her father, who by then was terminally ill, she also began participating in civil disobedience and numerous demonstrations during the first Intifada.
Late one night, Jebreal was arrested and whipped in an Israeli prison, but was released after 24 hours because she is an Israeli citizen. The only matter that is fictionalized in the film, she said, involves her boyfriend at the time; he did not engage in car bombings in the settlements or in any other violent activities, as far as she knows. In fact, when the Oslo Accords went forward in the early 1990s, he publicly endorsed the peace process, to the chagrin of fellow PFLP leaders.
Eventually Jebreal received a scholarship to the University of Bologna and relocated to Italy, where she had an affair with an art student and gave birth to a daughter Miral, named for a wildflower that blooms in extreme conditions. Her break in broadcasting came when the second Intifada erupted in 2000; since then, Jebreal has become one of Italy’s best-known journalists. She also became an author, writing “Miral,” she said, as a catharsis of sorts, “but in the third person because I needed to process it emotionally.” Schnabel, she said, has brought a more relaxed quality to her life, since she finds that “art in general focuses on the positive things.”
Yet she has been dismayed by Jewish groups who protested the screening of “Miral” at the United Nations recently. “The one right that I should have is to be able to tell my story,” she said. “[But] I’m not sure people are ready for a Palestinian woman to tell her story. You can judge the film as good or bad; you can dislike it, but to come out against the showing of the film is something I find shocking.”
The film opens on March 25.
March 17, 2011 | 5:10 pm
Posted by Naomi Pfefferman
“That’s sooo funny, Roger,” Brooke Shields said to playwright Roger Kumble during a read-through of “Girls Talk,” his new satire about Hollywood power moms at the Lee Strasberg Theatre opening March 18. Shields and her co-stars were laughing over the scene in which the character of Scarlett (Nicole Paggi of “Hope & Faith”), a Southern blond converting to Judaism, has flounced into a meeting of fellow moms from the fictional Temple Jerusalem pre-school in Brentwood. “This challah is to die for ... Challah VaChallah,” Scarlett gushes, a la Flava Flav.
In a later scene, Jane (Andrea Bendewald of “Suddenly Susan”) a failed actress turned ferocious Supermom, badmouths Scarlett to the others. “What kind of idiot mails St. Valentine’s Day cards to 4-year-olds at a Jewish school?” she says. “The school was pissed.”
Unlike Kumble’s previous “Hollywood” plays—sardonic comedies spotlighting male characters – “Girls Talk” features an all-female cast exploring issues important to the mommy set. Besides Scarlett and Jane, the characters include Lori Rosen (Shields) an ex-television writer who has given up her career to parent three children, and who, in the course of the play, must choose between co-chairing the school’s annual fundraiser or going back to work (meaning that her daughter may never “do” school in this town again). There’s also Claire (Constance Zimmer of “Entourage”), Lori’s former writing partner, who is trying to lure Lori back to the writers room—while fending off pitiful looks because she is fortyish and single. “If I wanted a kid that bad,” she pointedly tells the moms, I could get sperm from Marc Cherry, Darren Star and Ryan Murphy.”
“That would be a very rich gay baby,” Lori replies.
Eileen Galindo portrays Lori’s $300-versus-$700 a week nanny.
During a rehearsal break, the actresses praised Kumble: “You’ve written a play for five women, how awesome is that,” Bendewald said.
He admitted writing the all-female piece wasn’t easy. “I was nervous, but I just didn’t over think it,” he said. “I just kind of said, ‘This could go badly,’ and I showed an early draft to female friends just to see if they were going to say, ‘How dare you.’ But they said, ‘This is a solid piece of writing.’ I’m sure people could come away saying ‘God, these women are almost too masculine,’ but I’m a male writer, you know. My challenge to them is, ‘go write your play.’”
Story continues after the slideshow.
Here are further excerpts from my conversation with Kumble and the performers about satirizing their own industry, balancing work and parenthood, those dreaded pre-school applications, and more.
Naomi Pfefferman Magid: What makes “Girl’s Talk” different from, say, “The Vagina Monologues?”
Zimmer: In L.A. it’s very hard to do theater and have people come and see it, especially things that people might have seen other actors do over and over again. So there’s something very appealing about an original play by somebody whose work you know and like. And when Roger does plays, they’re not traditional plays, they’re like events. It’s something you [attend] to embrace the industry—the good, the bad and the ugly—more so the ugly that doesn’t really get shown very often.
NPM: [to Zimmer] You play the studio executive Dana Gordon on HBO’s “Entourage,” which does satirize Hollywood.
Zimmer: Yeah, but “Entourage” is even a little sugar-coated.
Shields: It’s a little ‘nice.’ Roger’s plays are edgy, but not self-aware like “OK, now we’re being edgy.” There are so few roles written for women that are complex and funny, heartbreaking and smart. We’re very often relegated to props or “The Girlfriend.” This play is not just female-centered but a very positive exploration of what it means to be a mother, trying to have a career and being told by society that we can have it all but always feeling that we’re falling short. I personally go through [these kinds of issues] on a daily basis; I left my kids this morning and they were sobbing, I don’t want to be without them but this [the play] is very important to me. When I was home, I was calling Roger every day, saying “How come you’re not writing something for me to do?” That’s the dichotomy and the push and pull you feel if you are choosing to be a mother, and what that brings.
Bendewald: People in this town love to see themselves reflected back on the stage, even if it’s not so pretty. When I did “d girl” [part of Kumble’s hilariously mordant “Hollywood” trilogy], the audiences heard how outrageous it was, and the people it resembled were the ones who were dying to see it.
NPM: Did they not “get” that the characters were supposed to be them?
Bendewald: No, I think they did get it and they loved it. I had many conversations afterwards where people would be like, “I had a boss like that.” So when I read “Girls Talk,” I had the same kind of reaction of, “Oh, that’s me, or that’s my friend, that’s my situation, I know that.”
NPM: There’s also the whole satire of the pre-school application process, and the parental hysteria that brings.
Shields: Sometimes you go, “Oh, it’s so political,” and yet [for your children] you need to find a way to play the game and play the game honestly, to the best of your ability without selling your soul, and yet knowing, “Well, I’ve got to sell something.” Naively, when I was applying to pre-schools here – we’ve since moved back to New York – there was one essay where they asked, “What can you offer the school?” So I of course launched into this in-depth essay about: a child who’s willing to learn and she’s a fresh mind and she’s energetic and stubborn and the kind of mind we’d want to shape and this is their future. But what they were looking for was a monetary amount. I talked to a girlfriend later—we didn’t get in – and she was like, “What did you answer on that question.” I [told her] and she was like, you were supposed to put a dollar value down, to say, “For the annual [fund raiser] we can give this.” That was a real awakening for me.
NPM: Even in “Entourage,” there’s that scene where the superagent, Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), is scheming to get his son into the right private school.
Kumble: Coincidentally, Doug Ellin, the creator of “Entourage,” has a daughter in my daughter’s class at her Jewish pre-school. Doug and David Schwimmer [who starred in Kumble’s play, “Turnaround”] and I all came up together. Doug’s seen “d girl” and of course I’ve seen “Entourage.” Actually our kids play together – not that I’m saying this in a name-dropping way. It’s not like I tell my daughter, “Go play, and tell them to give Daddy a job!”
Zimmer: My daughter is 3 and I’m just getting into the realization that it is such a nightmare to just try and get your child into a school. I actually got so angry and upset that I just stopped looking for a year because I was pissed off. I was going into these meetings with these people and I just thought, “Why are you interviewing me; this isn’t about me, I’m not the one coming to school here. I have an amazing child; you want my child or you don’t. So I have to come down off that ledge.
NPM: Do any of you worry that your children will never “do” school in this town again?
Bendewald: No, I think that will just be Roger (teasing). I don’t think any of us will ever have that problem. Actually the good news is his kids already are in school so he’s safe.
Paggi: I’m not a mother in real life. This [play] definitely makes me a little scared to have children.
Bendewald: The discussion about our kids is scaring you?
Paggi: The play scares me because it’s very realistic; based on what I hear my girlfriends who have children say, it all seems very true. But it’s also just so funny.
NPM: “Girls Talk” revolves around moms at a Jewish school, and there are ways in which the character of Jane, in particular, uses Judaism to undermine Scarlett, who is converting while raising her own son Jewish. Since none of you happen to be Jewish in real life, what did you make of the Jewish content and of characters trying to hurt each other in ways that had to do with their cultural identity, and the Who is a Jew issue?
Bendewald: [About Jane’s cruel behavior toward Scarlett]: I recognize her actions as a trait that exists in all of us, which is, wanting to fit in, feeling “less than,” and trying to feel better by putting yourself above someone else.
NPM: Do you think Jane is a bigot?
Bendewald: I think the part of it that is true for her is that she feels threatened, so she uses whatever she thinks will work to put this woman, Scarlett, down. I have different ammunition to use against Claire, which has nothing to do with her religion or nationality. I just use whatever someone’s weakness is.
Shields: I also think we’re not really in a culture anymore where it’s easy to find your ‘tribe’ or clan. I remember growing up feeling so much envy for my friends who were Jewish and had these families that met all the time and had rituals. My ritual growing up Irish-Catholic in Manhattan, was basically guilt on Sundays – or rather guilt all the time, and usually practicing the guilt on Sundays. And I would go to friends houses and feel, ‘Oh, this is what it is to have a history and have a family,’ because none of our relatives were around at the time.
I can see the vehemence with which one might want to fight for and keep something that is [traditional]. Whether it’s a matter of conversion or even if the logic doesn’t make sense, the innate history and the desire to hold onto something—you can see what a fire it is.
“Girls Talk” will open on Friday, March 18 and will run through Sunday, April 24 at the Lee Strasberg – Marilyn Monroe Theatre, 7936 Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. For tickets, call (800) 595-4849 or visit www.tix.com.
March 17, 2011 | 3:17 pm
Posted by Naomi Pfefferman
Michael C. Hall, the Emmy-winning star of Showtime’s “Dexter,” plays his first cinematic Jewish character in “Peep World,” Barry Blaustein’s dark comedy about four siblings who come to terms with their monstrous father (Ron Rifkin) on the eve of his 70th birthday.
Hall (“Six Feet Under”) portrays the dutiful son, Jack Meyerwitz, who is hiding an excruciatingly embarrassing secret; Sarah Silverman (“The Sarah Silverman Program”) is his needy, not-so-nice sister, Cheri; Rainn Wilson (“The Office”) is the family sad-sack; and Ben Schwartz (“Everybody’s Fine,” “Parks and Recreation”) is the favored son, Nathan, whose thinly-disguised autobiographical novel mortifies the family.
“To have yourself characterized in a negative way in something you didn’t agree to —that must be a real betrayal,” Hall said of the idea of becoming fodder for someone else’s tell-all.
While serial killer Dexter would have known exactly how to handle “Peep World’s” smug novelist, the fictional Jack isn’t the blood-splattering type. “It was interesting playing a part where an option to kill them all wasn’t there, so I had to do something different,” Hall quipped.
Here are excerpts from my conversation with Hall, Schwartz and Silverman, who last spoke to the Journal about her own autobiographical best-seller, “The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee.” “I don’t think there is anyone who can say they don’t come from a dysfunctional family,” Silverman said of “Peep World.” “I think that’s what makes a family normal.” A pause. “But this family is f——d up.”
“Peep World” opens March 25 in Los Angeles.
March 16, 2011 | 12:59 pm
Posted by Naomi Pfefferman
Artist-filmmaker Julian Schnabel understands why some Jews have condemned his movie, “Miral,” which opens March 25, as an anti-Israel screed: “It comes out of fear,” he told me by phone from New York this morning. “The fear that the Holocaust occurred, that ‘We have been [decimated] and we don’t want it to happen again;’ that ‘these people, the Palestinians, are against us having a state of Israel, and we must fight for that no matter what happens.’ But I don’t believe that’s true. I believe a Jewish homeland in Israel is super important, and a great thing, but we must have empathy, we have to be sensitive. I don’t think it’s a very encouraging way to look at people, as ‘us and them.’ It isn’t us and them. We are all human beings. And what is good for the Palestinians is also good for the Israelis.”
Not everyone agrees with Schnabel about “Miral.” Mainstream Jewish groups such as American Jewish Committee and The Simon Wiesenthal Center have condemned the film as as one-sided propaganda, and in particular its United States premiere at the United Nations on Monday. “Others have attacked me because the film isn’t pro-Palestinnian enough,” Schnabel said. “I really can’t believe I’m even talking about this because ‘Miral’ is a movie about a girl and her family,” he added. “If the movie had been set in Afghanistan, we wouldn’t even be on the telephone today.”
“Miral”—which is based on an autobiographical novel by Schnabel’s girlfriend, the journalist Rula Jebreal—spotlights a Palestinian girl, orphaned after her mother commits suicide, who becomes radicalized while teaching in a refugee camp during the first Intifada in 1987. In one scene, the fictional Miral (Freida Pinto) is arrested in the middle of the night for her association with activists, then brutally beaten during her interrogation in an Israeli prison. In another, a female terrorist attempts to place a bomb in an Israeli cinema, while the rape scene from Roman Polanski’s “Repulsion” plays on the screen. The sequence is a metaphor not only for the rape of Miral’s mother – which propels the woman’s suicide —but also for the protagonists’ perception of the rape of the Palestinian people, Schnabel said.
“Just as if I were painting a portrait, I’m dealing with what is in the frame that is related to Rula, and to Miral’s point of view,” said Schnabel, whose previous films include the acclaimed “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” “It’s not from my omniscient point of view of a 59-year-old Jewish guy who’s got all these different facts where I have to explain who attacked whom in the Six Days War. It’s Miral’s family history as it was told to her, and as it was lived by her. And that’s the power of the story. I can’t do this inexhaustible summation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are just too many stories.”
Not that Schnabel is without his own opinion. “When I shot the movie and lived and worked in Israel and in Palestine, I was pretty ashamed of certain situations that I witnessed,” he said. “I felt it was like apartheid over there, and that’s very disappointing. There’s democracy for Jewish people in Israel but I don’t think there’s democracy for Palestinian people….When I see a kid with pais and a yarmulke throwing a rock into a Palestinian home and screaming at them, that doesn’t seem to be the Jewish way to me.”
Schnabel knew almost nothing about Middle East politics until he met Jebreal in 2007 at an opening of his exhibition at the Palazzo Venezia in Rome, a former Pope’s residence where Mussolini gave his infamous speech-on-the balcony during World War II.
Schnabel had grown up in a strongly Zionistic family; his mother was president of the Brooklyn chapter of Hadassah at the time Israel was founded in 1948, and held many terms in subsequent years. As a child, he remembers how she “sold tickets for the youth aliyah; the B’nai Brith brunches on Sundays and how all the women who came to our house were members of Hadassah.
“My mother very much wanted me to go to Israel after my bar mitzvah, but I didn’t want to go—in part because everyone else was,” Schnabel said. “I was just more interested in being an artist; it was a point of rebellion in a way.”
When Schnabel finally did visit Israel, he arrived, ironically, the day before the first Intifada began in 1987. While Jebreal was teaching children in refugee camps, he was preparing for his solo show at the Israel Museum. Schnabel recognized that there was a curfew imposed, and that he and his sister were the only people dining in an Arab-owned restaurant his second night in Israel.
While in the Jewish state, the artist had hoped to make a painting on a Bedouin tent in the desert, with Arabs and Jews, and then view it from several hills away. That didn’t happen because of the Intifadah. “Really the whole trip was more about me being an American artist talking to Israeli art students than me finding out about what was happening with the [uprising],” he said.
At that time, Schnabel was already a superstar of the art world, having achieved international recognition for his brash, large-scale paintings set on broken ceramic plates. He had also made a splash for his larger-than-life personality (wearing pajamas in public, for example, and comparing his own genius to Picasso’s).
In 1996, Schnabel made his feature film debut with “Basquiat,” a biopic of the American postmodernist artist Jean-Michel Basquiat; in 2007, his Cannes-winning drama, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” was based on the remarkable memoir of Jean-Dominique Bauby, editor-in-chief of French Elle, who was struck with a rare condition that paralyzed him with all his mental faculties intact.
Schnabel’s exhibition at the Palazzo Venezia, also in 2007, was more flamboyant: “There were 40 paintings that I actually installed without building temporary walls, so you could just see modern paintings among the frescoes in these giant rooms,” he said. When he met Jebreal at the show’s opening, he assumed she was Indian, but was surprised to learn she was, in fact, Palestinian, and an Israeli citizen.
“I could almost see tension for a moment in his eyes,” Jebreal told me of that meeting. But the artist and the writer clicked; and when she susequently sent him her novel, “Miral,” he was moved and heartbroken by her story.
Pick up the March 25 issue of the Journal for more on Schnabel, Jebreal, their relationship, their collaboration on “Miral,” and the public’s response to the film.
March 14, 2011 | 8:42 pm
Posted by Naomi Pfefferman
Remember Yael Naim’s quirky, ebullient song, “New Soul,” from that omnipresent MacBook Air commercial, which gleaned the French-Israeli chanteuse an almost instant surge of celebrity two years ago? On May 10, the petite, 33-year-old folk-pop artist – who this month was awarded France’s prestigious “Victoire de la Musique"award for best female singer – will celebrate the United States release of her new album, “She was a Boy” on the Tôt ou Tard label.
Naim—who was born in Paris to Tunesian parents and raised in Ramat HaSharon before returning to France— created her album, “New Soul,” with percussionist David Donatien, on a computer in her Paris apartment. Reminiscent of work by Regina Spektor, the CD features songs in English, French and Hebrew sung in Naim’s husky, whimsical voice. Apple’s Steve Jobs personally selected the “New Soul” title track for his Mac ad – which helped make Naim the first Israeli solo artist to have a Top 10 hit in the United States.
Naim again has collaborated with Donatien to create “She was a Boy;” here’s a sneak peak of her new single, “Go to The River.”
March 6, 2011 | 2:26 pm
Posted by Naomi Pfefferman
In the aftermath of Charlie Sheen’s anti-Semitic rants last week, the actor told Access Hollywood that he is MOT. Replied the show’s host: “You’re getting accused of anti-Semitic remarks; you might want to say, ‘By the way, I’m Jewish!’” “I know, I know — stupid me,” said Sheen. Now another celebrity who has been disgraced for his own anti-Semitic rants — ex-chief designer John Galliano of Dior, whose “I Love Hitler” remarks were caught on videotape —may have Jewish roots, too.
According to a March 5 profile of the fashionista in Britain’s Daily Mail, during his tenure at Dior, “Galliano became a familiar figure on the streets of Le Marais, an area of Paris popular with gays and also — ironically enough — the city’s Jewish community.
It was no secret that Galliano shared his Paris home with his long-term boyfriend Alexis Roche, a style consultant.
What is less well known is that — according to a confidant of his, whom the Mail talked to this week — the designer loved to emphasise his own Jewish ancestry.
Perched in La Perle, mojito (his preferred cocktail) in hand, Galliano would tell anyone who listened about the melting pot of his heritage.
He always insisted he had Jewish blood from the Sephardi Jews who came from Spain and Portugal in the 19th century.
Johnny is obsessed with the idea of being descended from Jews,’ the confidant, who often drank with him at La Perle, reports. ‘He was brought up a Catholic, but has always been aware of the influence Jews have had on his life.
‘Johnny was particularly fascinated by the fact that couture in Paris was traditionally a Jewish industry.’
He added that, when sober, Galliano spoke authoritatively about the Holocaust, and particularly about the fact that thousands who worked in the fashion business in Paris were murdered by the Nazis.
‘Johnny knows that Paris designers were exterminated systematically by the Nazis in living memory. To me, the freaky language in a Paris bar was just nonsense — an attempt to shock strangers in bars.
‘He just didn’t want to present them with the image they expected — he wanted to surprise. He does this on the catwalk, so why not in a bar?’
Galliano has attempted to fight back, apologising for the video and said he is not responsible for any other racist abuse.
His supporters are insisting he is not anti-Semitic but simply attention-seeking. However, their protestations are doing little to assuage the anger of his former employer; Dior hastily severed links with its star designer, and its high-profile ‘face’ Natalie Portman spoke of her ‘shock and disgust’ at his behaviour.”
Now as Galliano has checked into a rehab near Phoenix, AZ, and reportedly could face court proceedings for making racist remarks, one could very well wonder: Is Mel Gibson Jewish, too?