“It’s not new and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon”

“It’s not new and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon”

Seth Rogen and Gabriel LaBelle in

Seth Rogen and Gabriel LaBelle in “The Fabelmans” (Photo: Universal)

In a post-premiere Q&A about his poignant, more-than-semi-autobiographical drama The Fabelmans at the Toronto International Film Festival, Steven Spielberg played down the Jewish-American aspect of his upbringing and the bullying he faced growing up as a result of his faith.

“Bullying is only a small aspect of my life. Anti-Semitism is an aspect of my life, but it is not any kind of governing force in my life,” the director said. “But it made me realize very, very early that I was an outsider.”

Still, the film’s memorable scenes of anti-Semitic bullying are disturbing, with the director’s teenage alter-ego Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) being taunted with a profanity, physically assaulted and called “Bagel Man” by a pair of overbearing students in the city ​​in Northern California. family moves during his teenage years.

And there is no doubt The Fabelmans hits theaters at a particularly troubling time in America, as high-profile figures like Kanye West (who lost millions in endorsements after threatening to go to “Death Con 3” to Jews) and Kyrie Irving (who promoted an anti-Semitic film in the social media ) have publicly ignited a wave of bigotry against Jews.

TORONTO, ONTARIO - SEPTEMBER 10: (L-R) Julia Butters, Keeley Karsten, Chloe East, Gabriel LaBelle, Steven Spielberg, Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord, Paul Dano, Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Kristie Makosko Krieger, and Judd Kushnersch

Julia Butters, Keeley Karsten, Chloe East, Gabriel LaBelle, Steven Spielberg, Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord, Paul Dano, Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Judd Hirsch and Tony Kushner attend the premiere of ‘The Fabelmans’ during the 20th International Film Festival on September 10, 2022. (Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

Asked whether an Oscar-worthy film by America’s most beloved director could possibly face the hate and propaganda from West and Irving and their supporters, the film’s most prominent Jewish cast members – Seth Rogen and Judd Hirsch – they’re not so sure.

“I mean, I would hope so. But I don’t know,” says Rogen, who stars as “Uncle Benny,” the best friend (but not blood relative) of Sammy’s father, Burt (Paul Dano). “People have always hated the Jews. When I was a kid, my father used to say, “Seth, people hate Jews. Just know that.” And that was as true when I was about 10 years old when he told me that, as it is now as a 40-year-old. People have been trying to dehumanize the Jews since I was alive. It works sometimes. It doesn’t work, other times.”

Rogen doesn’t think the onus falls on someone like Spielberg to combat that hatred: “Especially after Schindler’s List and things like that. I think people would say, “That’s one thing you probably don’t need to take on.” But he chose to make this part of his film. But yeah, I mean, anti-Semitism isn’t new and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon, unfortunately.”

Hirsch, who makes a brief but memorable appearance as Sammy’s brash (bloody) maternal uncle Mytzie (Michelle Williams), says he has been dealing with anti-Semitism since his formative years in the 1940s and 1950s after Second World War.

“It was like a secret thing that was always in the corner,” the 87-year-old Dear John and Taxi says the screen vet. “You always knew there was this certain feeling about the Jews in New York. I lived there. So it was always in the back of the mind. There was a real fear. World War II should have settled that, but it didn’t. So while it goes on as it goes on, in the story, I still haven’t figured out where the hell it came from. Or what it’s about. It’s like living in a society, but you’re not the same animal. And they look to you, in a way, like you’re a squirrel, and they’re people. … I can’t figure out what the difference is. I do not know.

“It’s timely [again] although. It’s not the most important part of the movie. This is just something that passed.”

The Fabelmans opens in select cities on Friday before expanding nationwide on November 23.

Watch the trailer:

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