MRC’s Modi Wiczyk Calls Canceling $2 Million ‘Ye’ Documentary ‘a Business and Moral Decision’

The documentary addresses Ye’s relationship with the media – whether he’s crazy, or just crazy like a fox.

MRC co-CEOs Modi Wiczyk and Asif Satchu in 2008; Kanye "Ye" West in 2022
MRC co-CEOs Modi Wiczyk and Asif Satchu in 2008; Kanye "Ye" West in 2022 (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Media Rights Capital; Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Sharon Waxman

Sharon Waxman On the Business of Entertainment

The founder and editor of TheWrap’s take on life on the left coast, high culture, low culture and the business of entertainment and media. Waxman writes frequently on the inside doings of Hollywood, and is is also the author of two books, Rebels on the Back Lot and Loot

The question of anti-Semitism is one that has traditionally made Hollywood profoundly uncomfortable as an industry full of Jewish people who would rather not talk about Jews, Jewish people, Israel or – God forbid – anti-Semitism.

Why that’s true requires a Ph.D. in psycho-Semitism (if that were a thing), but Kanye “Ye” West has managed to get shut out of much of Hollywood this past week after a series of anti-Semitic rants that have been embraced by hate groups and spread over social media. He’s lost his agency (CAA), his lawyer at Brown Rudnick and lucrative partnerships with fashion giants such as Balenciaga and others.

Also on Monday, MRC announced the cancellation of an already completed, $2 million documentary called “The Myth of Ye” that it had financed and produced and hoped to sell for as much as $10 million in distribution revenues. Director Zach Heinzerling sought to explore the relationship between the rapper, who legally changed his name to Ye, and the media – whether he is used by the press, or uses them for his own purposes. Whether he’s crazy, or just crazy like a fox.

The topic would seem extremely timely except for the fact that MRC’s leadership decided they would not be part of amplifying anything Ye had to say. Instead, MRC co-founders Modi Wiczyk and Asif Satchu, along with Chief Business Officer Scott Tenley, scrapped the project — even though Ye had no stake in it whatsoever (a rationale that Netflix cited on Monday to defend keeping its “Jeen-Yuhs” docuseries on the streaming service).

“It was a decision we had to make,” Wiczyk told WaxWord. “It was a business and moral decision and forced us to think about it. It gave us a platform to speak, we felt we have to do our part. We have been very troubled over the last couple of years over this ‘second lie,’ anti-Semitism 2.0, this rhetoric that is putting a wedge between Jewish people and Black people,” he continued. “The lie that if you support Israel you must be a racist.”

Wiczyk, who is Jewish (though I hesitate to share that fact because why should it matter), and Satchu (who is Muslim, which again is a fact that I hesitate to share because it also doesn’t matter) have been watching with concern the rise of both anti-Semitism and a more virulent strain of anti-Zionism in recent years.

“I have seen the full intersection of Israel and the Jewish identity,” Wiczyk said, adding that the BDS movement — promoting boycotts, divestments and economic sanctions against Israel — “has brought it to the mainstream. A lot of people are saying ‘Zionists are racists, but I’m not anti-Semitic.’ That’s ridiculous. It’s the mainstreaming of anti-Semitism, using anti-Israel as a smokescreen, a Trojan horse for anti-Semitism.”

What should Hollywood do about it?, I asked.

It’s a sticky problem, he admitted. Since the very origins of Hollywood, the Jewish individuals who have figured prominently in the film industry’s leadership have been hesitant to call attention to their religion.

Discrimination against people of color has been, all agree, a pressing concern in entertainment and beyond. But anti-Semitism has also decisively reared its head more recently.

Just this weekend, a right-wing hate group unfurled banners supporting Ye’s remarks on a Los Angeles freeway, and Wiczyk was among those across the city who received anti-Semitic literature in his mailbox.

The Anti-Defamation League has just released alarming figures tracking 2,717 anti-Semitic incidents in 2021. “It’s the highest total we’ve seen in 47 years,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL told me on Monday. “That’s a 34% increase, year over year, and almost triple whatwe saw in 2015.” (More from Greenblatt in a coming story.)

Doing nothing does not seem like a good course.

“Hollywood has been very articulate and on the case about traditional anti-Semitism,” Wiczyk said. “Many of us have been confused about how to talk about Israel and Palestine. How that intersects with being Jews in America. And how a given person’s opinions may reflect on their view of civil rights in general. I think that’s a complicated conversation that people have been very scared of having.”

He went on: “The next step in the conversation has to be to create a safe space for people to be critical of Israel and in defense of Israel in ways that are healthy and do not label them beyond their opinions of the situation.”

I don’t know exactly how that figures into canceling the Ye documentary, but it’s certainly a way to bring an uncomfortable discourse out of the shadows.