Sunday, June 05, 2005

New Sundance Film Studies Rising Popularity of 'Protocols of Zion' Post 9/11

Jan. 22, 2005
The Protocols of Zion
The Hollywood Reporter
by Duane Byrge

PARK CITY -- Remember Woody Allen's quirky paranoid character in "Annie Hall" and how he saw anti-Semitism in the most far-fetched associations? Well, filmmaker Marc Levin rounds up the current lunatic fringe of anti-Semites, as well as the scarier establishment hatemongers, and encapsulates a post 9/11 morphism of this hideous problem. Woody's character, we see, had more to be worried about than he even envisioned.

As a documentarian, Levin is a combo David Susskind and Michael Moore, a serious social thinker with a daft sense of humor and a flair for ambushing knuckleheads. Best, Levin, who directed "Slam" (a Sundance jury prize winner), appreciates that one need not be solemn to be serious. "Protocols of Zion" is often funny, revealing the idiocy of hatemongers through their own harebrained explanations.

Based on the book, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," a work of high balderdash that purported to be the minutes of a secret meting of Jewish elders at the end of the 19th century and their master plan to rule the world, Levin debunks that tract as well as the religious fanaticism and zealotry it has unleashed.

To Levin's astonishment the" Protocols" has been revived in the post 9/11 days, and in its tracts, fanatics have attempted to blame Jews for the murderous atrocity of the World Trade Center horror. With its subject mater, the film's most hospitable venue will be in big-city festival sites.

In this editorial essay, Levin engages a wide range of zealots -- neo-Nazis, Kabbalist rabbis, Holocaust deniers, Black nationalists, etc. -- and, essentially, gives them enough rope to hang their imbecilic utterances. As an interviewer, Levin is skilled and affable and builds momentum as he reports even scarier anti-Semitic tirades, including a speech from the Malaysian prime minister.

Occasionally, Levin's ambition exceeds his cinematic grasp: The film is somewhat scattergun in its blend of history and contemporary phenomenon, including a glib inclusion of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ" as an inflammatory tract.

Crisply edited by Ken Eluto and buoyed by Levin's incisive intelligence and wit, including some compelling ruminations with his father Al, 'Protocols of Zion" found an appreciative festival audience here at Sundance.

HBO Cinemax Documentary Films


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