Hollywood screening of 'Bearing Witness' showing graphic Hamas attack sparks controversy: What to know

Gal Gadot reportedly helped organize the screening, leading to outcry among her fans.

LAPD officers attempt to deescalate a brawl between pro- and anti-Israel supporters
LAPD officers interact with pro- and anti-Israel supporters outside the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. (Getty Images)

On Wednesday, Nov. 8, the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles held a private screening of Bearing Witness to the October 7th Massacre. The 43-minute film compiles raw footage showing the gruesome acts of violence perpetrated by Hamas militants against Israeli civilians during surprise attacks last month. While the film played, tensions flared outside the museum, where, as captured in video footage posted online, Los Angeles police intervened to separate clashing groups of pro-Palestine and pro-Israel demonstrators.

Here’s everything to know about the controversial film, its Hollywood screening and the involvement of Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot.

What’s the film about?

Bearing Witness has been described as “graphic and disturbing,” and contains unfiltered video of the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas militants against Israeli civilians, striking from the Gaza Strip into bordering areas in Israel. The clips, compiled by a unit of the Israel Defense Forces, were culled from "body cameras and cellphones" as well as "dash cams" and "security cameras" from Israeli victims, Hamas militants and emergency responders, per the Hollywood Reporter, Rolling Stone and Variety.

According to the Atlantic, an earlier version of the film was screened by the IDF at a military base north of Tel Aviv. As described by those who have seen the film, Bearing Witness displays scenes of Israeli families being tortured and killed, with multiple shots of mutilated bodies and bloody corpses, including those of dead children whose faces have been blurred. The Hollywood Reporter says the film concludes with “horrific video of the aftermath” of the massacre at the Israeli music festival Supernova, where 260 people were slain.

Since Oct. 7, more than 1,400 Israeli citizens have been killed and 200-plus have been taken hostage, while at least 10,000 Palestinians have been killed with more than 1,000 people feared missing under the rubble, following a series of Israeli air strikes.

The Los Angeles screening — and why it was controversial

In October, plans were made to host screenings of the film in Hollywood and in New York City. The Hollywood showing took place Nov. 8 inside the Peltz Theater at the Museum of Tolerance. During the screening, "a few dozen protesters" — both pro- and anti-Israel — gathered outside the theater, per the Hollywood Reporter.

Pro-Palestine demonstrators accused the theater of supporting genocide by showing the film, while the pro-Israel contingent drew attention to the 200-plus Israeli hostages as well as a new wave of antisemitism across the world.

Some demonstrators carried signs that read: “Anti-Zionism ≠ Antisemitism” and “The Museum of Tolerance is showing a pro-genocide film” and “Free Palestine,” per Rolling Stone. According to the New York Post, one bullhorn-wielding demonstrator chanted, “Bring them home,” referring to the hostages.

According to the local affiliate ABC7, several people were pepper-sprayed as the LAPD tried to control the crowd. While there were reports that several were detained, Yahoo has not immediately been able to confirm whether anyone was charged.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass took to social media to decry the violence: "We cannot allow current worldwide tension to devolve into this unacceptable violence in our city," she wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. "This is a time of immense pain and distress for thousands of Angelenos. We must stand together."

How was Gal Gadot involved?

There have been differing reports on the extent of the Wonder Woman star’s role in organizing the screenings. Israeli-based TV network i24News reported on Nov. 5 that Gadot, a former member of the IDF, was a key player in orchestrating the events. While her husband, producer Jaron Varsano, attended Wednesday’s screening, the actress was a no-show, and her representatives have yet to comment.

Nevertheless, Gadot’s presumed involvement riled her pro-Palestine fans, many of whom went to X to air grievances, with one calling her the “propaganda girl of Israel-sponsored terrorism.” Others applauded, with one writing: “We need more and more people like her!

Who else was there?

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the screening was attended by roughly 150 people — including the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan; the Israeli-American CEO of Mattel, Ynon Kreiz; Oscar-nominated producer Lawrence Bender; and filmmaker Guy Nattiv.

Before the film, Erdan spoke at the podium: “This video will change the way you view the Middle East,” he said, per Rolling Stone. He later called Hamas “sheer evil,” warning that “the West is next” to face jihadist terror. Other speakers included Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance, who reportedly called Hamas “the Nazis of the 21st century.”

At one point during the event, a video was introduced showing several Broadway and Hollywood stars — including Debra Messing and Jeremy Jordan — singing “Bring Him Home” from Les Misérables on behalf of Israeli hostages held by Hamas.