'Wish You Weren't Here': Training the lens on Roger Waters

Celebrity journalist and filmmaker Ian Halperin's latest film unabashedly labels singer an antisemite.

ROGER WATERS performs at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on June 20.  (photo credit: MARIO ANZUONI/REUTERS)
ROGER WATERS performs at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on June 20.
Ian Halperin’s past films have focused on Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Kurt Cobain and even Brad and Angelina.
But the Canadian celebrity journalist’s latest movie puts the lens on a topic that transcends Hollywood: contemporary antisemitism. The film, Wish You Weren’t Here, premiering next week in Canada, focuses mostly on musician Roger Waters, who has become one of the most vocal and visible supporters of the boycott Israel movement. Pink Floyd’s ninth studio album, from 1975, was titled Wish You Were Here.
“I’d say about 70% of the film is Roger Waters,” said Halperin in a phone interview late Monday night. “It’s time Roger Waters issues an apology to Israel and to the Jewish people,” he added, “because what he’s espousing is hatred and antisemitism and it’s just uncalled for.”
Halperin knows as well as anyone that an apology will not be forthcoming. Waters has been unrepentant in his criticism of the Jewish state and his attempts to stop artists from performing here. The former Pink Floyd front man has called Israel an apartheid state, compared its government to Nazi propaganda efforts, and said Israel is the worst human rights offender in the world.
And while Waters has rebuffed any attempts by Halperin to contact him or comment on the movie, the film will literally be following him around Canada next month. In every city Waters performs in on his “Us + Them Tour,” B’nai Brith Canada will be hosting a screening of the documentary.
Waters will be playing shows in Toronto on October 2 and 3, Quebec City on October 6 and 7, Ottawa on October 10, Montreal on October 16 and 17, Winnipeg on the 22nd and Edmonton on the 24th and 25th. B’nai Brith Canada will host screenings of the film in Toronto on October 2, Quebec on October 7 and 8, Ottawa on the 10th, Montreal on the 16th, Winnipeg on the 22nd and Edmonton on the 25th.
In the first half hour of the film, which The Jerusalem Post was granted access to see ahead of its premiere next week, Halperin intersperses footage of Waters’s statements with experts and other leading figures critiquing his statements and actions.
At a symposium in Rome on antisemitism earlier this month, Halperin asked the main speaker, Tony Blair, if Waters’s comments comparing Israel to Nazi Germany were antisemitic.
“It think it is really,” the former UK prime minister and Mideast envoy replied. “I think the criticism is so ludicrous that it indicates a basic hostility to the notion of the homeland of the Jewish people.”
Figures including Ron Lauder, Natan Sharansky and Alan Dershowitz also lend their voices to the film’s narrative, while Halperin has included clips of Elton John and Paul McCartney appearing in Israel as well.
Halperin throws in up-to-date footage from around the globe, but conflates some of the current phenomena in an over-simplistic manner. The toppling of headstones in a Jewish cemetery in Missouri, the racist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the revisionist history of PFLP terrorist Leila Khaled may share a hatred of Jews, but little else. While there is antisemitism in many corners of the world, it can’t all be traced back to Roger Waters, as the film tries to imply.
After its tour of Canada, Halperin said the film is slated to have screening dates in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York and then Israel, in partnership with various organizations. While Halperin is used to national and international dissemination of his works, it is unclear how widely Wish You Weren’t Here will end up being seen.
“With this movie, I’m trying to bring people together, not to divide them,” Halperin said. “This particular film is meant to call [Waters] out and bring people together... Music is supposed to spread love, not hate.”