Tuesday, November 14, 2017

DOC NYC Spotlight: Spiral

I’m excited to have been able to screen a few selections from DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival, which presents its eighth year in New York City from November 9th-16th.

Directed by Laura Fairrie
Festival Screenings

Anti-semitism is on the rise - it’s an established and unsettling trend. With the incitement of hate from so many powerful leaders, it’s no surprise that people are turning against each other and communities are becoming divided on particularly potent issues. Triggering incidents all around the world are inspiring people to rise up against each other, both in large public demonstrations and in isolated attacks on minority communities. Tracing the roots of these violent and hateful acts is complicated, and in this case, the research takes a questionable turn in trying to address the problem.

France is the country with the world’s third-largest Jewish population, and it also is home to a large Arab and Muslim population. A lawyer, teacher, and family are the film’s main subjects in France, all discussing their discomfort witnessing a shooting outside a Jewish school in Toulouse and the murder of patrons at a kosher supermarket and their doubts about whether Jews can continue to live in France. Deeply disturbing content is presented, including clips of propaganda videos that assert how malignant and dangerous Jews are.

Where this film appears to veer off course is in its focus on an Israeli settler moving to his family to land that he deems is “where we belong” and the Palestinian mayor who lives nearby and must contend with this invasive colonialism. Showcasing one reason cited by those who express anti-Semitism that supports their cause creates a false equivalency by suggesting that this a legitimate and defendable defense for that hatred. French comedian Dieudonné, who has been fined repeatedly for anti-Semitic statements and routines, is also interviewed in depth, which at first seems to show just how offensive his material is until it becomes clear that he’s just as much of a dynamic subject as this film’s Jews who face persecution in France.

There’s a greater theme that this film appears to be going for, which is that xenophobia and anti-Islamism are just as prevalent as anti-Semitism. Yet that goal is not achieved, since the research and conclusions covered here don’t investigate that assertion and instead try to rationalize anti-Semitism as a reasonable response to events going on in another country used to demonize an entire people. There are some interesting notions and arguments presented here, but the entirety of this experience is one that’s far less responsible and compelling, concerned more with finding answers than addressing issues.


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