In a burgeoning golden age of DIY photography, guerrilla documentarian Ami Horowitz is exposing hypocrisy at 25 frames per second.
On the UC Berkeley campus, he garnered support waving an Islamic State flag. In Portland, he collected donations from college students to explicitly support Hamas terror attacks on schools, hospitals and other Israeli “soft targets.”
In face-to-face meetings with war criminals, embedded among neo-Nazis, and in countless other “designed-to-stun” settings, Horowitz enjoys making polemic cinéma vérité with an often unassuming, humorous edge.
Horowitz, who operates Disruptive Pictures, has no training in what he calls “docu-tainment”; the former investment banker with Lehmann Brothers creates pieces inspired by Michael Moore’s films.
A Modern Orthodox Jew and Israel supporter, Horowitz’s end game is to unmask UN obfuscation, anti-Semitism, bigotry and ignorance through humor. His work not only plays widely across social media channels but also airs on television networks where he reaches millions of viewers.
Raised in Los Angeles, Horowitz “attended mostly Jewish schools,” interned at KROQ, a leading rock radio station, and studied political science and philosophy at the University of Southern California.
The son of an Israeli mother and an American father who worked hard to run a small business, the married father of two now lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side where his videos have caused him to receive threats mere steps outside his own front door.
He operates a studio with a small team, with whom he completed his first feature-length documentary, the 93-minute “U.N. Me” which he co-wrote, co-directed and starred in.
His next feature film, “Bad Jew,” currently in production, reveals “how normative anti-Semitism has become” through a series of what he describes as “Borat-style stunts.”
In this interview with The Times of Israel, Horowitz shared more about his work, his strategy, and leveraging satire to promote UN accountability, human rights, the Jewish people, and the State of Israel — where he also has lived, studied, and worked.
What inspired your first video and which ones have received the most attention?
My first short video was highlighting the absurdity of Occupy Wall Street. The first really viral sensation was the ISIS flag versus Israeli flag. The success of that one took me by surprise and was covered all over the world. The video was seen nearly 15 million times across Facebook, YouTube and FoxNews.com.
According to Google Analytics, it was seen in every country on planet earth including 11 times in Antarctica. It was very popular in Iraq and Syria, where I imagine it was popular with ISIS.
What motivates your film and video work?
I have something to say and a point of view that I think is important to get out into the broader world. I chose movies and videos as my medium because they are more user-friendly than books or even newspapers, particularly to a younger audience. Young people want to access their information through entertaining means for better or for worse
And what inspired your film, U.N. Me?
One day I was watching the Michael Moore movie “Bowling for Columbine” and thinking about the United Nations at the same time. I couldn’t believe that there was so much suffering around the world under the watch of the United Nations, never mind the absurd bias against Israel day in and day out in the halls of the UN.
And I wanted to get that sentiment out there and into the wider world. Then I looked over at the Michael Moore movie and decided that this medium, the darkly comical documentary, was the best way to do that. [“U.N. Me”] opened at theaters across the US and we sold for broadcast in 14 countries. Israel, by the way, was not one of them.
I understand “U.N. Me” sold widely within the first 12 months after its 2012 release. How was it received?
The response was incredible. It wasn’t just that the movie was getting great responses from the New York Times, LA Times [and] Washington Post — which it did — but that it was getting major mainstream coverage.
Significant feature pieces were written about me and the movie in the Washington Post, NY Daily News, Chicago Sun Times… I was appearing on Access Hollywood, NPR, NBC Nightly News [and] MSNBC and obviously, all the conservative outlets. It was immensely gratifying that after you put all this hard work into something people are really responding.
What was your trajectory to satire?
Out of college, I managed a statewide political campaign in Maryland. I then became an investment banker for nearly 15 years before I decided to leave to sharply bank my career and become a filmmaker. Nothing has been more emotionally and professionally satisfying.
What is your response to the ongoing viral interest to your recent Hamas fundraising video?
The response has been massive. Nearly five million people have seen the video through FoxNews.com, Facebook and YouTube. Over 25 million people have seen the video and heard me discuss it on television and radio, not counting newspapers, magazines and blogs that have covered the video.
What other responses have you received?
Most of the feedback has been very positive. People are beginning to realize that this obsession over Israel is morphing into something else and leading many of our kids down some very dark corridors. This video is meant to highlight that.
How do you feel having your work featured on Fox and Friends? And Hannity?
It’s very gratifying to have Fox News as a partner with these videos. They’ve done a phenomenal job of disseminating the videos and my point of view throughout the Fox News universe both on their internet and broadcast platforms. They distribute all of my videos across the Fox News universe, which includes digital and broadcast. I am generally interviewed after each piece on Fox and Friends, Hannity and usually one or two of the Fox business shows.
How did you strike the Fox deal for your ‘Ami on the Loose’ and ‘Ami on the Street’ videos?
Shortly after “U.N. Me” came out several media organizations approached me about creating content for them. I decided that not every topic could be a feature length film and short videos would be a great way of tackling a variety topics. Soon thereafter it made sense that Fox News would be a good home to me, we have an aligned way of thinking and, News Corp is of course one of the largest media companies in the world.
What is your opinion of the campus climate today?
The tenor of our campuses today has become extraordinarily problematic. They are a mirror image of the leftist European body politic. That cuts across their political, economic and social perspective. And unfortunately that also includes their perspective on Israel.
They have been becoming more anti-Israel every day and the responsibility for that falls squarely on the shoulders of the professors who are feeding their students garbage and lies about Israel. Apartheid and genocide are the type of words used by professors to describe Israel. It is dangerously absurd.
What motivates you to show the anti-Semitism underlying the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement?
The reality is that anti-Semitism is underlying the BDS movement. I could excuse it for something else if those people also included in their ire other countries that they viewed as damaging and dangerous. But they do not boycott Sudan or North Korea or Iran. They simply boycott the one Jewish state.
I understand ‘U.N. Me’ involved professionals from Jon Stewart’s ‘The Daily Show,’ the satirical publication ‘The Onion’ and Michael’s Moore’s team and cost several million dollars to produce and distribute. How do you fund your projects?
‘I have to raise money for each of the movies and videos myself. This is the only way I can have “final edit”‘
I have to raise money for each of the movies and videos myself. This is the only way I can have “final edit” which is vital for the creative process. It is an important but difficult process of meeting like-minded individuals and pitching them on the impact each of the videos have.
I am humbled that people believe enough in me that they are willing to put their hard-earned resources into making my various visions into reality. Without the people who contribute to what I do, I would not able to create this type of content.