Filmmaker Ian Halperin is used to his movies generating a slew of media coverage.
His last film, Broken: The Incredible Story of Brangelina, to be released in August, has been covered in breathless detail. But the author and investigative journalist has felt an entirely different response to his current project, Wish You Weren’t Here, which accuses musician Roger Waters of antisemitism.
“Since the trailer’s been released we’ve only had a handful of articles and really no mainstream media that I’m used to has picked it up,” Halperin told The Jerusalem Post via phone last week. When it came to Broken, he said, “I didn’t even release a trailer and I had literally 2,000-3,000 articles when it was announced.”
While news outlets certainly always clamor for juicy personal revelations about Hollywood A-listers like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Halperin felt there is something else at play.
“This is my first foray into something about Israel and Jews, and I’ve discovered the mainstream media likes to avoid this topic,” he said. “I’ve heard from editors, people I’ve worked with for over 20 years, they just don’t want to touch this subject.”
The film deals with Waters’s crusade against Israel in the context of contemporary antisemitism.
For years, the ex-Pink Floyd front man has been one of the most prominent voices in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. He has called for a full boycott of the Jewish state, and regularly urges artists and performers to cancel shows scheduled in Israel. In one of his most heated battles, Waters has taken on Radiohead and its lead singer Thom Yorke, for the band’s show in Tel Aviv slated for this week. Despite the pressure and media coverage, Yorke has refused to back down.
“It’s deeply disrespectful to assume that we’re either being misinformed or that we’re so retarded we can’t make these decisions ourselves,” Yorke said in an interview last month.
The rocker added that the “BDS picket line exists to shine a light on the predicament of the occupied people of Palestine, both in Palestine and those displaced abroad.”
Halperin, a Canadian native, has become well known for his books and films on Hollywood celebrities. In the past he’s covered Michael Jackson, Kurt Cobain, the Kardashian family, Celine Dion and others.
Halperin said the excuses he’s heard from editors who don’t want to cover the Waters documentary are “absurd,” including that Waters “is too small.”
“The fact is that Roger Waters has the highest-grossing solo artist tour of all time,” said Halperin. “He’s bigger than Michael Jackson, bigger than Bruce Springsteen... any of the mainstream media who say he’s not big enough, I think they’re just using it as a cop out and are extremely uneducated.”
Halperin didn’t hold back.
“This shows me very antisemitic sentiments in the mainstream media,” he said. “I’m not afraid to speak out. I’ve worked with these people for a long time from every major media outlet you can think of...
I have to call them out because they are not remotely interested in what’s going on.”
Halperin recently visited Israel to do his last filming for Wish You Weren’t Here, and interviewed people like Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky and Likud MK Avraham Neguise.
“Roger Waters refers to Israel as an apartheid state and [Ethiopian- Israeli] Neguise really was livid with that analogy,” recalled Halperin. “It’s just... a religious and ethnic attack....
There are so many more extreme violators and perpetrators of human rights abuses in this world than Israel.”
While Waters is the focus of the film, Halperin said he “intertwines it with contemporary antisemitism... I traveled all over Europe, Paris, Ukraine, Italy and England,” speaking with scholars and experts.
“I’ve interviewed musicians who have worked with him over the years and – this was alarming – they claim that he’s been anti-Jewish for more than 25 years,” said Halperin. “This man obviously has an agenda.”
He was introduced to the topic by Dr. Charles Asher Small, founder and director of the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy. Last month, ISGAP launched a site calling for a boycott of Waters. To date, the petition has received more than 5,000 signatures.
Halperin is hoping his film will change that – and reach global audiences.
“My movies are usually sold to TV in 150 different countries,” he said. “I’m not worried at all, because there are other avenues available if there are networks that balk... I will make sure this film gets out to as wide an audience as possible.”
Halperin said while he reached out to Waters to participate in or comment on the film, he is “still waiting for a response. I would gladly meet with him anytime, any place.”
A representative for Waters did not respond to a request for comment by press time.