Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Review: Defamation

I rarely watch documentaries.  It's not that I am against them totally, it's that I find most of them are one-sided hack affairs that offer little insight and are truly biased.  There are a few gems (No End in Sight, March of the Penguins, An Inconvenient Truth, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) that I found insightful and worth a watch and rumination afterward, but I am always leery in basing my opinion off something I saw in a documentary.

Enter Defamation, Israeli film maker, Yoav Shamir's, attempt to explore and explain antisemitism (especially in the US.)  Shamir is embedded in the ADL as they go around Europe; he accompanies a group of Israeli teenagers as they tour concentration camps in Poland; he interviews a variety of talking heads, ranging from professors to rabbis to everyday people (Jews and Gentiles).
Shamir is not afraid to get his hands dirty and confront a person's perspective or ask penetrating questions and facts, but he doesn't wholly judge.  What comes out is an interesting and certainly eye-opening experience.  The dichotomy of a knife-wielding manic's attack on a synagogue (whose adherents later stated that they faced no antisemitism in their society) to Israeli teenagers having a run-in with some old Polish men (who were asking the innocent question, whether the teenagers were Israeli, while the teenagers quickly assumed that the men were calling them donkeys.)  Shamir puts up a comparison of observant Jews versus secular; he gives pro-Israel and Israel critics equal weight; and he puts it out there that perhaps the whole issue of antisemitism could be minimized if everyone put down their banners and really held a conversation.

Score: B