Saturday, March 13, 2010

So, Winterbottom Has Bottomed Out

Mili Avital is no right-wing, fanatic, nationalist Israeli. Although a Hollywood star and married to Charles Randolph, she still has the ability to recognize a problem. I will return to her promptly.

If you recall, I have been suspect of Michael Winterbottom’s new film project.

First, they visited the Begin Center and I had the opportunity to introduce him to the vast literature on the underground struggle against the British and the political interpretative dispute. I also pointed out the period's complexity but the simple stories of heroism. He seemed quite uneasy and indicated that the real period he was after was the late 1930s. That, to me, indicated an attempt to pillory the Jews as ‘terrorists’ no better, and probably worse, than the Arabs.

Then, for over a year, no contact. I sent a note to one of his assistants but it was quite noncommittal and then, poof!, we learn that the script concerns Yair Stern, Tom Wilkin, King David Hotel, etc., sounding all mixed up chronologically and also displaying political and ideological bias.

Well, here’s where Mili Avital comes in. She was interviewed in Ma’ariv this past Shabbat and there, in the magazine section, “Sof Shavua”, page 75, (*) she notes that the country is literally part of her body and that the link to it is quite emotional despite the distance. That relationship permits her to “make clear decisions”.

The interviewer asks, “what does that mean?” and she replies:

“When I returned to here [Avital is filming a new series, ‘The Kidnapped’, in Israel – YM], I had received a script of Michael Winterbottom to read on the history of the undergrounds. It is a script that has drawn much attention, Colin Firth will play in it, but it was so anti-Zionist that I closed it after 20 pages. I read it and there were tears in my eyes. This director appreciates me a lot and I dreamed to work with him but it pains me to read how he describes the beginning of Zionism from such an extreme point of view. I thought he would deal with the emotional and psychological experience of the members of the underground, not that he will make a political accounting with them.”

Well, it’s quite clear enough where this film is heading.


You don't believe? Here's the Hebrew:

ברור לך שעצם העובדה שאת לא גרה בישראל מעמידה בספק את היכולת שלך להטיף למשהו.
"קודם כל, אני האחרונה שתטיף. מבחינתי, הארץ היא כמו איבר שהשארתי מאחור. הקשר שלי לפה הוא כל כך רגשי, מהול בגעגועים ושמחה ועצב וזיכרונות. העובדה שאני עדיין יכולה להתחבר לתרבות הישראלית מהמקום שאני באה ממנו, שהוא קצת מעורבב, קצת היברידי - נדירה ויקרה לי מאוד. וזה גם גורם לי לעשות בחירות ברורות מאוד".


"כשחזרתי לפה, קיבלתי לקריאה תסריט של מייקל ווינטרבוטום (במאי בריטי מוערך שביים את "אנשי המסיבות" ו"וונדרלנד"), על תולדות המחתרות. זה תסריט מאוד מדובר, קולין פירת' אמור לשחק, אבל הוא היה כל כך אנטי ציוני שסגרתי אותו אחרי 20 עמודים. קראתי את זה והיו לי דמעות בעיניים. זה במאי שנורא אהב אותי וחלמתי לעבוד איתו, וכאב לי לקרוא איך הוא מתאר את תחילת הציונות מנקודת מבט קיצונית כל כך. חשבתי שהוא ידבר על המסע הרגשי והפסיכולוגי של חברי המחתרות, לא שהוא יתחשבן איתם פוליטית".


Anonymous said...

Had you done any sort of research of Googling, Michael Winterbottom's political leanings should have been very evident.

Anonymous said...

During the European Film Market event in Berlin, Michael Winterbottom's The Killer Inside Me was apparently so violent that dozens of people walked out of the press screening in disgust.

Anonymous said...

Just because Michael Winterbottom's latest film may be violent (and extremely so) that would not hold true for others he has made over the years. He doesn't do one kind of film. He has made small character-driven films like Wonderland and Genova to off-beat comedy like Tristram Shandy. Or his well-received political dramas such as Welcome to Sarajevo and A Mighty Heart.

Knowing Winterbottom's films and his political leanings, it was not hard to surmise what this Promised Land film would portray, i.e., that the Jewish fighters for independence were no better than Arab terrorists of today. That Winterbottom did not seem interested in the bigger picture doesn't surprise me. He has an agenda and none of that would be in service of his message.