To celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, the Jewish Federation of Howard County held its second Israel Film Festival.
The film festival took place May 3, when the Jewish Federation streamed the documentary “King Bibi” and held a virtual conversation with director and producer Dan Shadur. Shay Rubinstein, Jewish Federation’s shaliach (emissary), had met Shadur while visiting family in Israel, and had invited him to be a part of the event.
“King Bibi” documents Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rise to power in 97 minutes. Told only through archival footage, it follows Netanyahu’s interest in politics, beginning with the death of his brother. It provides brief glimpses into his three marriages, and how the media went after his family gossip. As he becomes more confident with the media, Netanyahu takes bolder steps. He welcomes CNN for a live interview during the Second Intifada, where they wear gas masks. He begins deciding on lighting in some interviews and does his own hair. He has a film crew follow his family life for a year.
The attendees joined in to watch “King Bibi” on a Zoom link, where Rubinstein shared his screen to play the movie.
After the screening, Shadur spoke more about the film. Attendees submitted questions for him to the Zoom chat feature. They ranged from how Shadur found interest in this topic, his opinion of Israeli politics, contrasts between President Donald Trump and Netanyahu, and more.
One element of the documentary Shadur addressed was how communications consultant Lilyan Wilder is in the film. Her recordings are woven throughout the documentary.
Shadur explained that during his research, he learned that Netanyahu listened to Wilder’s “7 Steps to Fearless Speaking.”
“Don’t talk up or down to them, talk to them,” the recording says in gentle, singsong tone after a clip of Netanyahu’s early interviews. “Bring something to show them,” Wilder says, after a clip of Netanyahu showing CNN a map of Israel. In little ways like this, viewers see Netanyahu take control of his presentation in media.
This idea mesmerized Shadur, he said, particularly when he found footage of Netanyahu in the ‘80s perfecting how to tell a story, retelling it to the reporter again and again until they recorded the perfect moment.
Eventually, Netanyahu stopped doing interviews with the media, which he accused of being biased against him.
While Shadur was fascinated by the press-prime minister relationship, he refrained from speculation and partisan answers during the discussion.
He did note, though, that Netanyahu’s ability to get the message he wants across in the media has only improved over the years.
“His control of discourse is better from when he started … He realized he should only go for his base,” Shadur said.