First Run Features // 2009 // 91 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // June 17th, 2010
Anti-Semitism: The Movie
Yoav Shamir's Defamation is an excellent documentary taking a somewhat critical approach to the meaning and existence of anti-Semitism in today's world. With his camera always rolling, Shamir invites viewers to accompany him on a thought-provoking journey across the world in order to find out what anti-Semitism really means and what supporters and critics have to say about its realities. No matter what your opinion on the subject matter may be, it's hard to argue against the film's high level of entertainment. Defamation is a smart, witty film you should definitely put on your list of documentaries to watch.
Essentially, Shamir decided to make this movie because someone once call him an anti-Semite. Shamir was shocked, but didn't exactly understand the reason behind this accusation. As a result, he decided to embark on a mission to understand how anti-Semitism is perceived and why exactly it still seems to be a rather big issue today. In the style of Michael Moore, Shamir grabs his camera and heads out to ask the tough questions. Does anti-Semitism really pose a threat? How much of it really exists? What's the driving force behind its ongoing presence in the world? What do Jews living in America versus Jews living in Israel think about it?
Shamir has a lot of questions. Much to his credit, he gets a lot of answers in just 90 minutes. Because of the vast nature of the theme he addresses, Defamation is anything but a boring experience. In fact, it's both a compelling lesson as well as a push to critically think about what his interviewees have to say about anti-Semitism. In this sense, his film is a tad controversial, but that's exactly what makes it so interesting. Shamir has the guts to go to supporters and critics and ask them anything he wants, and his way of following up couldn't be more intriguing to follow.
Shamir doesn't necessarily pick sides, but his attitude towards anti-Semitism can be interpreted as critical at times. Conducting interviews with his grandmother (who's got a strong opinion on the subject), a strong-minded journalist (who believes all countries are anti-Semitic), a rabbi (who believes things have gone too far), and many others who've got a lot to contribute, Shamir lets viewers decide for themselves what sounds right to them. He's a curious filmmaker who understands pacing and focus on instructional, controversial content, and the result of his efforts is an enjoyable documentary I believe deserves the acclaim it has accumulated.
Shamir also spends considerable time in the film traveling to several locations, including New York, where he visits Abraham Foxman, the guy who is running the Anti-Defamation League. The film gives viewers great insight into the organization's missions and practices, but it also looks at some of its procedures and policies in a quite critical way. Shamir approached this with a lot of humor but without ever losing the seriousness of his topic, and that's yet another reason why this film works so well. Another major part of the movie is dedicated to following Shamir as he joins a group of Israeli teenagers on their way to Poland to learn more about the Holocaust.
First Run Features has prepped a disc with a solid 2.35:1 widescreen presentation of the movie. For a doc shot mostly handheld without a large crew, the movie boasts a solid picture and sound quality. In terms of special features, the disc includes a director's biography and statement. In the latter, Shamir explains in detail how the film came together.
Defamation undoubtedly provokes big discussions. Shamir started this project with a bunch of questions, and I found it very intriguing to watch him look for the answers. Again, whatever your definition of anti-Semitism may be, I encourage you to give this one a shot. You won't be disappointed, and you may actually end up learning a thing or two.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: First Run Features
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English, Hebrew)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Director's Statement