(JTA) – The new Netflix comedy “You People,” about an uneasy union between a Jewish man and a Black woman in Los Angeles, was always aiming to provoke its audience.
“I feel like the movie has something to say,” producer Kevin Misher told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “It allows different sides to evolve and understand everybody’s point of view on the world. … People grow to understand each other. And when they don’t understand each other, they understand that there are, in fact, differences.”
But when they shot the movie a year ago, director Kenya Barris (“Black-ish”) and his Jewish co-writer and star Jonah Hill couldn’t have predicted how it would land in the midst of several national stories about Black-Jewish relations, including prominent Black celebrities who have dabbled in antisemitism.
For example, the film’s use of a popular song that includes the N-word in its title at two different intervals — first as a joke about Hill’s character being unable to say the title, then at the end under a hora — takes on a heightened meaning today. Kanye West, who now goes by Ye and is one half of the talent behind the song, recently went on a months-long antisemitic tirade that included him expressing his admiration for Hitler.
Misher, who is Jewish, acknowledges that the track is “a difficult song to play in that moment.” Netflix’s original plans to feature the first scene involving the Ye song in the film’s teaser trailer were scrapped amid his onslaught of antisemitic comments.
But the filmmakers felt the scene needed to remain in the final cut of the film — even as they cut another scene in which their actors spoke Yiddish — because it underlined the uncomfortable racial tensions between Hill’s character, a Jew named Ezra, and co-star Eddie Murphy, who plays Akbar, the soon-to-be father-in-law Ezra is trying to win over.
“It was important, I think, for us to have that song remain, so that it portrayed the divide that they would have to cross,” Misher said. “It wasn’t about the artist of the song, it was about the words in the song.”
Misher also justified the song’s reprisal at the end of the film, noting that Ye himself doesn’t sing on the sample: “Jay-Z is singing at the end.”
“You People” was conceived as a mashup of “Meet The Parents” (which Misher also produced) and “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.” In a modern-day twist, the white liberal family, rather than expressing anxiety over the race of their child’s partner, fetishizes her family instead.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus and David Duchovny play the Jewish parents. Although the relationship between Jews and whiteness has been a topic of serious academic debate for generations, and although Lauren London, who plays Hill’s Black love interest Amira, herself has an Ashkenazi Jewish father, the Jews in the movie are simply portrayed as white.
Barris’ team was unable to make him available for a JTA interview prior to the film’s release, and Hill has announced he will no longer do press for any of his films, citing his mental health. But Misher told JTA that he thought the film did an admirable job of portraying a specific “culturally Jewish” Los Angeles family. As a Jew himself, he said it was also important to him that the film’s depiction of Judaism be “authentic.”
To that end, he brought on the rabbi and cantor at his own synagogue, Kehillat Israel in Los Angeles, to play the rabbi and cantor at Ezra’s fictional synagogue in the movie. (Scenes depicting a Yom Kippur service were shot at the Skirball Cultural Center, an L.A. Jewish museum.) He also hired an on-set Jewish cultural consultant from Hebrew Helpers, a nationwide Jewish studies tutoring service.
There are other racially charged moments in the film that may sit uneasily with Jewish viewers. A tense dinner-table conversation with Amira’s family includes discussions of the Holocaust and slavery, including Akbar reminding Ezra’s family that some American Jews owned slaves. (The film’s premiere on Netflix on Friday coincides with International Holocaust Remembrance Day.)
Akbar is a follower of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, whose antisemitism gets a small acknowledgement, although the wedding at the end of the film is jointly officiated by a cantor and an imam meant to represent the Nation of Islam. (Most Muslims do not consider the Nation of Islam to be part of the religion.)
Also at the film’s end, Louis-Dreyfus, playing Hill’s mother, apologizes to Amira and Akbar for her series of racist microaggressions “on behalf of all Jewish people.” This follows an apology from Akbar — but only for being mean to Ezra, not for committing his spiritual and political life to an antisemite.
Misher said that while Barris wanted to invoke tense political topics, the core of the film still aimed to be a character-based comedy. Detailed discussions of antisemitism, the filmmakers believed, would have distracted from that.
“If, suddenly, somebody starts standing up at a soapbox and waxing philosophic about the way the world is, I think that would have felt inauthentic to the journey of these specific characters,” he said.
At the end of the day, the makers of “You People” still believe their film has a message worth sharing.
“I feel like we got it right, in terms of how we represented the relationship between these two families,” Misher said.
As for the other conversations about racism and antisemitism these characters could have had, he said, they might come up if Netflix greenlights a sequel.
The post Netflix’s ‘You People’ digs into Black-Jewish relations. It also plays a Kanye West song, twice. appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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