Israeli Filmmakers on the US Presidency

By
Festival founder Meir Fenigstein.
Festival founder Meir Fenigstein. Photo: Getty Images

The Israeli film directors, producers, and actors who’d gathered at the Ziegfeld for the opening night of the 23rd Annual Israel Film Festival last week had more than cinema on their minds. "In Israel, we follow your election every night," said Ricky Shelah, producer of Altalena, a film about a massacre on a ship of Holocaust survivors. "And in Israel, I think we are very much pro-McCain," he said, comparing McCain's pro-Israel policy to that of George Bush. "Not me personally. But the notion is that we know what will McCain do. We do not know what will Obama do.”

Some of the other visiting Israelis, like 21-year-old actor Michael Moshonov, remained undecided. "It’s very important, because I think that it’s going to decide what happens next in Israel,” Moshonov said, “but a lot of people in my age don’t have a sharp opinion about the situation. That’s part of living in Israel. The government changes all the time and it is so difficult and corrupt that for me, as a young man in Israel, it is very hard to find the right leader."

Meir Fenigstein, the festival's founder, said he, too, hadn't made up his mind. "I’m divided, like a lot of Americans right now," he said. "Some people are afraid of Obama. They’re afraid because he’s black and it’s kind of strange to all of a sudden have a black president. But he’s not really black. He’s a Harvard graduate.”

“I think Americans should choose a president that is good for them. Not for Israel, for them,” said Director Reshef Levy, an Obama advocate whose film, Lost Islands, opened the festival. Shelah agreed: “Although we consider ourselves the 51st state, we do not vote.”