Cedar wins standing ‘O’ with Olmert-based flick
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Stormin' NormanStormin' Norman

Cedar wins standing ‘O’ with Olmert-based flick

Jerusalem-born director premieres film starring Richard Gere, based on scandal-ridden Israeli prime minister currently serving time for graft

Actor Richard Gere introducing fans to filmmaker Joseph Cedar, who wrote and directed Gere's latest film, at the Toronto International Film Festival this past September. (Courtesy YouTube screen grab)
Actor Richard Gere introducing fans to filmmaker Joseph Cedar, who wrote and directed Gere's latest film, at the Toronto International Film Festival this past September. (Courtesy YouTube screen grab)

Israeli filmmaker Joseph Cedar premiered his latest film, “Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer” at the Toronto International Film Festival this week.

Originally titled “Oppenheimer Strategies,” the film stars Richard Gere and Lior Ashkenazi, and also features Steve Buscemi and Michael Sheen, as well as French actress and singer Charlotte Gainsbourg.

At the film’s opening, Cedar — who was warmly greeted by a white-haired Gere on the red carpet as they pulled in fellow cast members for a photo — spoke prior to the screening, which won a standing ovation, according to festival organizers.

“With 2,000 people here, truthfully, all I can think about is that among you are my parents, and maybe this is a good time to tell them, there’s no nudity in the film,” he said, to laughter and applause from the audience. “But I know, but, but, it’s about Jews, money and the relationship between American Jewry and Israeli politics. So I hope you have a relaxing viewing, Mom and Dad.”

Israeli filmmaker Joseph Cedar, at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this week (Courtesy YouTube screen grab)
Israeli filmmaker Joseph Cedar, at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this week (Courtesy YouTube screen grab)

Cedar’s latest film focuses on the relationship between Norman Oppenheimer, played by Gere, a Jewish businessman from New York, and Micha, played by Ashkenazi, a rising Israeli politician. It is reportedly based on the saga of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, convicted of illegally taking money from American Jewish businessman Morris Talansky. Olmert is currently serving a 19-month jail sentence for that and other graft convictions.

Ashkenazi told Channel 2 News on Tuesday that people can read what they want into the story which, in his opinion, was about friendship, and “someone looking for recognition.”

Cedar, who was raised in Jerusalem and lives in Tel Aviv, has become one of Israel’s most successful filmmakers, His film “Beaufort,” about an isolated IDF unit, was nominated for an Oscar, as was his last film, “Footnote,” which won the best screenplay award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.

Gere was in Israel in March to work on the film, which began filming in New York last winter.

The Hollywood Reporter has praised “Norman,” saying it was “made with skill, style and an insider’s knowledge of the intersecting worlds of New York and Israeli power politics..”

“Cedar impressively creates a complex and intricately detailed portrait of the web of political, financial, social and religious affiliations that has everything to do with how the world works.”

“Norman” will reach American and Israeli movie theaters in early 2017.

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