While on a visit to Israel to collect a million-dollar award from Tel Aviv University, American filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen said that they did not believe that boycotting Israel would solve political problems.
The production-direction team responsible for a string of successful Hollywood dramas in the last two decades, from The Big Lebowski to Miller's Crossing, came to the country to receive the Dan David prize for their creative contribution to filmmaking.
The Dan David prize committee called the duo a unique example in cinematic history for their abilities to tell a simple story in a complex manner.
The prize is named for businessman and philanthropist Dan David and is administered by a board of directors headed by Tel Aviv University President Professor Yoseph Klafter. Ten percent of the recipients' prize money is donated on their behalf to doctorate and post-doctorate student grants.
Responding to a question about musicians and film makers who boycott the State of Israel because of its policies and actions, screenwriter and director Ethan Coen said, "People respond to real problems from the heart, and they think that's the right thing to do. We don't agree with that opinion, that that's how to deal with these problems."
The brothers' Jewish heritage is on display in a number of their films, most obviously in 'A Serious Man' – translated into Hebrew as 'The Good Jew'. Despite many references to Jewish cultural themes in their movies, the two deny that their own Jewishness is necessarily connected to their filmmaking.
"There were Jewish characters, but in regards to whether our background influences our film making… who knows?" says Joel. "We don't think about it… There's no doubt that our Jewish heritage affects how we see things."
"We grew up in a Jewish community, but we never thought to make a story that deals with Israel," Joel continued. "We don’t really know Israel - we write American stories. That's what we know."
"We've wanted to come here for a long time, but life got in the way," Joel explains. "We're very happy for this opportunity. We'll spend a few days at Tel Aviv University."
The Coen Brothers were nominated for twelve Academy Awards in the last year alone for their most movie 'True Grit'. The film follows a decade of successes that include 'No Country for Old Men', 'A Serious Man', and 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?'
The other prize winners for 2011 were University of California at San Francisco Professor Cynthia Kenyon and Harvard Medical School Professor Gary Ruvkun for their work in gerontology and Stanford University Medical School Professor Marcus Feldman for his work in the evolutionary sciences.
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