Diary Of A Hollywood Refugee

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Troops Honored on Celebrity Apprentice

The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund received a huge donation and our troops were honored on The Celebrity Apprentice. The Intrepid Heroes Fund is Piers Morgan Charity....he had several soldiers wounded troops attend the final show live in NYC, and others attended the celebrity charity event. The heartfelt reception that these wounded, brave troops received was overwhelming.

Piers became The Celebrity Apprentice, and as such the Donald donated $250K to Intrepid Heroes Fund. Piers won 11 challenges - each time he won, The Intrepid Heroes Fund received a large donation.

Live Online Auction
You now have the opportunity to bid on items seen on this season's Celebrity Apprentice. All proceeds from the online auction go directly to Piers Morgan's selected charity, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, a not-for-profit organization that provides support for the families of military personnel lost in service. For a complete list of the items up for auction, please visit www.nbc.com/auctions. The auction runs from March 27th through April 3rd.

And lets' not forget Country/Western superstar, Trace Adkins, a gentlemen of integrity with a heart of gold and a beautiful soul, whose charity, FAAN is very personal. His daughter suffers with life threatening food allergies.

Celebrity Apprentice Finalist, Trace Adkins, will be performing his hit single, "You're Gonna Miss This" live with his band during the finale. For two weeks only, you can download the charity single exclusively at iTunes.

All proceeds for the entire two weeks lifespan of the download will go to Trace's chosen charity, FAAN (Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network). FAAN is the largest charity in the world dedicated to helping and advocating for the 12 million who suffer from food allergies.

Congrats to both Piers & Trace, who raised the profiles of their charities, while raising hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Open Letter to Senator Obama

Eloquently written, powerful & evocative.

Dear Senator Obama:

I have now read and reread your speech, understanding you take this to be a “teaching moment,” I have applied myself to its lessons. But some questions have arisen and I need a little more clarification.

You tell me Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s horrendous remarks will take on a different meaning if I will but contextualize them and understand he has seen terrible things in his time, a burden shared by all African-Americans. A fair proposition; from Kant to Auden and beyond we learn we define by comparison and only by internalizing can we grasp true meaning. So I have done precisely that: looked inside myself to understand how hatred might need to be contextualized.

I did not have to look far. I remembered how, as a boy, I sat at the Passover Seder with my sister’s Polish-born husband and the remnants of his family. The remnants of five families to be precise, for the 12 weary souls around that table were all that remained of what had once been 300. The others – their loved ones, their sons, their daughters, their hopes and dreams – were gone, their lives consumed by zyklon-b gas, their mortal remains wisps of smoke from a Büchenwald chimney. These people, who had seen and suffered so much, read of my ancestor’s deliverance from Egypt exactly as the Bible instructed: in the present tense, as if it happened to them. “For with a mighty hand the Lord thy God raised thee out of Egypt and brought you from slavery to freedom.” But as they spoke – or really whispered such was the fear and holiness of the moment – they were not conjuring up Egyptian slavery as a present experience but recalling the horrors they themselves had witnessed, murder on a scope once unimaginable and only made possible by perverted technology. Though their Yiddish was foreign to me, I picked up the odd word. When they spoke of the Concentration Camp guards, they called them the Ukrainians. When they remembered the betrayal of their neighbors, I could distinguish the word Pole. But above all, it was the Germans, the hated Germans. The Hun. The Devil’s Scourge. And I was filled with a righteous hatred. Had I, in that moment, the power to end the life of every German on earth, I might have well done so. That is a shameful thought. I am humiliated by the memory. But perhaps, in context, you can understand my homicidal rage and forgive me, and should I have chosen to preach that doctrine in a place of worship and stir an audience to its feet as it cheered my righteous fury, I trust you would offer me the fig leaf of “context.”

As the Seder ended, my brother-in-law, seeing my rage, put his arm around my shoulder and asked what troubled me. I stammered the best explanation I could. He smiled, “Don’t be a fool,” he said, “the Germans left so many of us dead and stole the joy from so many that remain. So now you want to give them the final victory by allowing your own life to be consumed and twisted and deformed by the same hatred? Leave it to them. That’s why we, at this table, forgive. Not forget, but forgive. You just heard how Moses told the Israelites not to celebrate the death of the Egyptians in the Reed Sea. Learn.”

But his words were empty to me.

A few years later, work on a particular film took me to Munich, and as I drove past the road signs to Dachau, past Hitler’s favorite spot, “The English Gardens,” to my suite at the Bayerischof Hotel (where The Fuehrer himself once stayed) I was physically ill. I couldn’t stand to hear the German tongue, nor bear to see Germans smile, and when I noticed a man in traditional Bavarian dress I again felt my homicidal anger rise. I survived that trip, came back to the safety of my blessed America, promising never to return to part of the world that was home to alien races who had destroyed so many people just like me.

Sometime after that, I was invited to participate on a panel on “Hollywood and Stereotypes” sponsored by the American Jewish Committee and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. It was against my instinct, but a good friend had asked I participate and so I did. It began with a clip from Hollywood movies picturing stereotypical Germans and ended with the famous moment in Casablanca where the French stand and sing “La Marseillaise”. What a crock, I thought, Senator! After all, the short story upon which the film was based was set in Marseilles where the French were happily arresting Jews for transport to their own concentration camp at Drancy. Besides France had yet to apologize for her diligent rounding up and deportation of Jews even after the successes of D-Day. And yet they considered themselves victims which meant never having to say they were sorry. My first co-panelist to speak was a young woman, a German filmmaker. She spoke of how growing up as a German she felt ashamed and humiliated whenever it was necessary to admit her lineage and how her life was about working to ease her shame. It was pure self-hatred. Senator, by some strange alchemy I heard myself explaining to her the mantle of guilt did not fall upon the shoulders of her generation. In fact, I found myself describing Germany’s honest attempt to come to terms with the horrors committed in its name. I spoke of all the things they had done from which the French, the Ukrainians, the Poles had run. How they taught in their schools the truth of their actions, how they policed their civil society and punished words or acts that had echoes of that time, how they worked tirelessly to make reparation to those survivors not stamped out by their hobnailed boots. They had sought atonement. That is not say anti-Semitism and anti-Semites did not persist in Germany. Of course they did, as they do everywhere. But they are no longer the soul or intent of the German nation, they are seen for the abhorrent aberration they truly are. Mind you, Senator, the “new” Germans did not ask for forgiveness; they knew this was not within the power of humankind and could only be given by the grace of God. They acted out their atonement from pure understanding of what had gone before.

And in that instant I realized my hatred was unjustified. The “context” was false. I was nursing the anger for my own psychic advantage and not because the current state of humanity or my own experience gave it justice. And I shed my anger. And when another film project took me to Germany, my journey was completely different. I’m not saying as I sat in the lobby of the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Kimpinski in Munich I couldn’t help but imagine it filled with SS Officers enjoying the fruits of their murdering conquest. Of course I did. But I also understood the young Germans around me could not be held to that account. When one of my colleagues, also Jewish, made a derogatory remark I engaged him, and with surprising ease found he agreed it was time to let go. I threw away the comfort of context, spoke the truth to him. And it freed me. Now, this is not true for all Jews, Senator; some still dwell on that bitterness, and you would say, understandable, given the “context.” Perhaps. But they are not our soul or intent. They are a past generation and we do not look to them for leadership. We teach redemption. We try to hold them to some form of account.

That is the teaching opportunity I hoped you would evoke: not explaining Wright’s outrage to me, but explaining his outrageousness to him. That’s how we’ll reach the postracial era: by no longer justifying ourselves with what was, instead speaking to what now exists. Not deny the past, but recognize that’s what it is: past.

You say you are devoted to Reverend Wright because he brought you to Christ. I can only imagine how powerful a relationship that forges. But, my imperfect understanding of the Christian Faith tells me you can do him an equally magnificent service: You can help bring him back to Christ. Show him redemption and salvation lie not in the satisfaction of doing little dances in a pulpit while you slander good and decent people. Teach him that great leadership and Christian love abjures the very filth – and I pick that word deliberately – that he spews on an apparently regular basis. After all, Senator, you know our government did not invent the HIV virus to kill African-Americans. You know, Senator, this is not the United States of KKK America. You know the truth of 9/11. At least you should. Both you and Michelle have benefited mightily from the new spirit that has come to America in the last two generations. I thought you were part of that. I thought you were post-racial.

But in your silence, in your justifications, in your facile instruction to contextualize, you seem just a more presentable version of those dreary self-promoters, Sharpton, Jackson, Bakewell and the rest. Surely this is not you. Please, Senator, be brave. Lead. From a position of honesty where context is our daily reality, not drawn from bitter memories, no matter how justified they once might have been. Deny Jeremiah Wright your comfort of “context”. Be Presidential. To all Americans.

Yours sincerely, and in prayer for the Grace of God,

Lionel Chetwynd

PS – I would like to discuss your stereotyping of “typical” white people whose only valid dissatisfaction is apparently the occasional irritation at the misuse of affirmative action. But enough for now. Perhaps another time.

Lionel Chetwynd is an Oscar and Emmy Award nominated filmmaker living in Los Angeles.

H/T: Pajamas Media

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

R.I.P. Anthony Mingella

Oscar-winning director Anthony Minghella, who turned such literary works as "The English Patient," "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and "Cold Mountain" into acclaimed movies, has died. He was 54.

Very Sad. He was a brilliant director.

Read more here

Sunday, March 16, 2008

War Torn

About Iraq, John Burns gets it right:

FIVE years on, it seems positively surreal.

On the evening of March 19, 2003, a small group of Western journalists had grandstand seats for the big event in Baghdad, the start of the full-scale American bombing of strategic targets in the Iraqi capital. We had forced a way through a bolted door at the top of an emergency staircase leading to the 21st-story roof of the Palestine Hotel, with a panoramic view of Saddam Hussein’s command complex across the Tigris River.


It was not long, of course, before events in Iraq began giving everybody cause to reconsider. On April 9, the day the Marines entered Baghdad and used one of their tanks to help the crowd haul down Saddam’s statue in Firdos Square, American troops stood by while mobs began looting, ravaging palaces and torture centers, along with ministries, museums and hospitals. Late in the day, at the oil ministry, I discovered it was the only building marines had orders to protect. Turning to Jon Lee Anderson, a correspondent for The New Yorker who had been my companion that day, I saw shock mirrored in his face. “Say it ain’t so,” I said. But it was.


The harsh reality is that many Iraqis, at least by the time of the two elections held in 2005, had little zest for democracy, at least as Westerners understand it. This, too, was not fully understood at the time. To walk Baghdad’s streets on the voting days, especially during the December election that produced the Shiite-led government now in power, was inspiriting. With 12 million people casting ballots, a turnout of about 75 per cent, it was natural enough for President Bush to say Iraqis had embraced the American vision. In truth, what the majority produced was less a vote for democracy than a vote for a once-and-for-all, permanent transfer of power, from the Sunni minority that ruled in Iraq for centuries, to an impatient, and deeply wounded, if not outright vengeful, Shiite majority.

American hopes are that Iraqis, with enough American troops still present to stiffen the new Iraqi forces and prevent a slide backward toward all-out civil war, will ultimately tire of the violence in the way of other peoples who have been plunged into communal violence, as many Lebanese did during their 15-year civil war. Those hopes have been buoyed by a reduction in violence in the last year that can been traced to the American troop increase and to the cooperation or quiescence of some previously militant groups, both Sunni and Shiite.

They are hopes shared by many ordinary Iraqis. Opinion polls, including those commissioned by the American command, have long suggested that a majority of Iraqis would like American troops withdrawn, but another lesson to be drawn from Saddam Hussein’s years is that any attempt to measure opinion in Iraq is fatally skewed by intimidation. More often than not, people tell pollsters and reporters what they think is safe, not necessarily what they believe. My own experience, invariably, was that Iraqis I met who felt secure enough to speak with candor had an overwhelming desire to see American troops remain long enough to restore stability.

Read: War Torn - Looking Back At Five Years

Monday, March 03, 2008

Staying to Help in Iraq: Angelina Jolie OP ED

We have finally reached a point where humanitarian assistance, from us and others, can have an impact.

By Angelina Jolie
Thursday, February 28, 2008; 1:15 PM

The request is familiar to American ears: "Bring them home."

But in Iraq, where I've just met with American and Iraqi leaders, the phrase carries a different meaning. It does not refer to the departure of U.S. troops, but to the return of the millions of innocent Iraqis who have been driven out of their homes and, in many cases, out of the country.

In the six months since my previous visit to Iraq with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, this humanitarian crisis has not improved. However, during the last week, the United States, UNHCR and the Iraqi government have begun to work together in new and important ways.

We still don't know exactly how many Iraqis have fled their homes, where they've all gone, or how they're managing to survive. Here is what we do know: More than 2 million people are refugees inside their own country -- without homes, jobs and, to a terrible degree, without medicine, food or clean water. Ethnic cleansing and other acts of unspeakable violence have driven them into a vast and very dangerous no-man's land. Many of the survivors huddle in mosques, in abandoned buildings with no electricity, in tents or in one-room huts made of straw and mud. Fifty-eight percent of these internally displaced people are younger than 12 years old.

An additional 2.5 million Iraqis have sought refuge outside Iraq, mainly in Syria and Jordan. But those host countries have reached their limits. Overwhelmed by the refugees they already have, these countries have essentially closed their borders until the international community provides support.

I'm not a security expert, but it doesn't take one to see that Syria and Jordan are carrying an unsustainable burden. They have been excellent hosts, but we can't expect them to care for millions of poor Iraqis indefinitely and without assistance from the U.S. or others. One-sixth of Jordan's population today is Iraqi refugees. The large burden is already causing tension internally.

The Iraqi families I've met on my trips to the region are proud and resilient. They don't want anything from us other than the chance to return to their homes -- or, where those homes have been bombed to the ground or occupied by squatters, to build new ones and get back to their lives. One thing is certain: It will be quite a while before Iraq is ready to absorb more than 4 million refugees and displaced people. But it is not too early to start working on solutions. And last week, there were signs of progress.

In Baghdad, I spoke with Army Gen. David Petraeus about UNHCR's need for security information and protection for its staff as they re-enter Iraq, and I am pleased that he has offered that support. General Petraeus also told me he would support new efforts to address the humanitarian crisis "to the maximum extent possible" -- which leaves me hopeful that more progress can be made.

UNHCR is certainly committed to that. Last week while in Iraq, High Commissioner António Guterres pledged to increase UNHCR's presence there and to work closely with the Iraqi government, both in assessing the conditions required for return and in providing humanitarian relief.

During my trip I also met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has announced the creation of a new committee to oversee issues related to internally displaced people, and a pledge of $40 million to support the effort.

My visit left me even more deeply convinced that we not only have a moral obligation to help displaced Iraqi families, but also a serious, long-term, national security interest in ending this crisis.

Today's humanitarian crisis in Iraq -- and the potential consequences for our national security -- are great. Can the United States afford to gamble that 4 million or more poor and displaced people, in the heart of Middle East, won't explode in violent desperation, sending the whole region into further disorder?

What we cannot afford, in my view, is to squander the progress that has been made. In fact, we should step up our financial and material assistance. UNHCR has appealed for $261 million this year to provide for refugees and internally displaced persons. That is not a small amount of money -- but it is less than the U.S. spends each day to fight the war in Iraq. I would like to call on each of the presidential candidates and congressional leaders to announce a comprehensive refugee plan with a specific timeline and budget as part of their Iraq strategy.

As for the question of whether the surge is working, I can only state what I witnessed: U.N. staff and those of non-governmental organizations seem to feel they have the right set of circumstances to attempt to scale up their programs. And when I asked the troops if they wanted to go home as soon as possible, they said that they miss home but feel invested in Iraq. They have lost many friends and want to be a part of the humanitarian progress they now feel is possible.

It seems to me that now is the moment to address the humanitarian side of this situation. Without the right support, we could miss an opportunity to do some of the good we always stated we intended to do.

Angelina Jolie, an actor, is a UNHCR goodwill ambassador.

Nothing more need be added. She gets it, where others on the left, including the majority of the Hollywood unintelligentsia, don't, never have and never will.