Helen Mirren, Golda Meir, and the Question of Jewface

Representation both on the screen and on the page is a powerful thing. For those who feel maligned or ignored, seeing themselves in the media as fleshed-out human beings is an experience that can only be described as life-changing. It also changes minds and hopefully opens the door to understanding one another.

When it was recently announced that Helen Mirren is starring in an upcoming Golda Meir biopic, some people accused her of playing Jewface.

I have mixed feelings about this. Golda Meir was Israel‘s first female Prime Minister and a woman to be reckoned with. The actress who plays her has to have that same energy and presence. Mirren is clearly up for the job.

The problem (which I understand) is that Mirren is not Jewish. When she spoke to the director before she took the role, she understood the criticism that was potentially coming her way.

“[Meir] is a very important person in Israeli history,” Mirren continued. “I said, ‘Look Guy, I’m not Jewish, and if you want to think about that, and decide to go in a different direction, no hard feelings. I will absolutely understand.’ But he very much wanted me to play the role, and off we went.”

“I do believe it is a discussion that has to be had – it’s utterly legitimate. [But] You know, if someone who’s not Jewish can’t play Jewish, does someone who’s Jewish play someone who’s not Jewish?”

This is not the first time that she has played a Jewish character. In both The Debt and Woman in Gold, the women she played were of the faith. But neither of the women who she temporarily inhabited were in the position that Meir was in. What I think makes this question of Jewface more complicated is that Ashkenazi Jews (for the most part) are Caucasian. The question of the entertainers’ skin color is less important than their ethnicity or family heritage.

I have no doubt that Helen Mirren will be nothing short of fantastic. I have been a fan of hers for a number of years. My hope is that she will do Golda justice. But for now, we can only wait and see how the movie is received when it hits theaters.

Throwback Thursday- The Debt (2010)

Guilt and what if’s can often be our greatest downfall in life.

In The Debt (2010) three former Mossad agents are facing the guilt and what if’s of the past.

The film begins in 1997. Rachel Singer (Helen Mirren), Stephan Gold (Tom Wilkinson) and David Peretz (Ciaran Hinds) are being honored for a mission they completed in 1965 to bring to justice Nazi war criminal Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen). But the truth is that while they were able to complete their mission, it was not as smooth as hoped. The film then flashes back to 1965 where the younger version of the characters, Rachel (Jessica Chastain), Stephan (Martin Csokas) and David (Sam Worthington) are in Berlin, in the early stages of their mission.

After the flashback, the film then reverts back to 1997 with the characters being lauded as heroes, but questions still linger. Were Rachel, Stephan and David truly able to complete their mission or are there loose ends that may come back to haunt them?

I happen to like this movie. Beyond the very talented cast, the movie grabs the audience by the throat and does not let go until the very end.

I recommend it.

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