If Judge Ian Visser ever shows blood in his face, it's probably because his wife just back-handed him.
An independent documentary helps give Michigan a bad name.
"White nationalism" is a term you may not be familiar with. It is a movement with a specific purpose, namely the promotion of the white race as being superior to all others. This may sound like the same thing as generic racism, but white nationalists believe that they possess a God-given superiority that demands the pursuit of an all-white nation. This belief is tied to what is referred to as "Christian Identity," an interpretation of the Bible which argues that whites are the true children of Israel and ultimately God's chosen people. The ultimate goal is nothing less than the elimination of those not of pure "Aryan" blood and establishing a government based on racial superiority.
While the 1950s and 60s could boast a Ku Klux Klan numbering into the tens of thousands, white nationalists have splintered in recent years into a number of smaller, less-organized factions. The rural Idaho compound of the Aryan Nations is often considered the major source of white nationalism in the United States, but smaller groups also recruit members and have their own agendas. Beyond the shared belief of white superiority, the specific aims of these groups differ greatly. Some suggest a "racially pure" homeland should be established in the Pacific Northwest, while others demand that all non-whites simply leave America immediately. Violence is also a component of the movement, ranging from the random beatings of immigrants to organized bank heists used to fund various aims.
"Blood in the face" refers to a claim within white nationalism that only a true Aryan can become visibly flushed when blushing or after being struck. The term has been used for decades within the movement to suggest a physical difference between whites and other so-called "inferior" peoples. It is part of the nationalist lexicon, along with such terms as "14 words" (the truncation of a pro-white slogan) and "88" (representing "Heil Hitler," using the numerical identifier of the letter "h").
The 1991 documentary Blood in the Face is based on the book of the same named by author James Ridgeway. I own a copy, and I can tell you that the book is a well-written and researched effort that delves into the creation and evolution of the movement. The film, regrettably, is not. With a lack of depth and perspective, Blood in the Face provides only a narrow examination of the movement and the people involved.
Blood in the Face chronicles a 1986 meeting of white nationalist leaders who are attempting to form a single organization to concentrate their efforts. Located on a rural Michigan property, the meeting features a marketplace of white nationalist paraphernalia, a symposium of speakers, and yes, a cross burning. Intercut with the event footage are interviews with members of the Ku Klux Klan, the American Nazi Party, and the White Patriots Party, and with sympathizers and family members of white nationalists.
The overall impression of these people is predictably laughable; unemployed mid-Westerners in Nazi regalia, pot-bellied "warriors" nursing cheap beer, and housewives who have never met a non-white person but have done "research" to prove their natural inferiority. The film makers are content to film the proceedings as they unfold; interviewers inject the occasional question, but for the most part the attendees are allowed to ramble on at will. Much of the footage involves people making bizarre claims or rants, such as how the United Nations has 35,000 Viet Cong troops waiting in the wilds of British Columbia to attack America (I guess they're still waiting).
While film makers Anne Bohlen, Kevin Rafferty, and James Ridgeway seem content to sit back and let their subjects hang themselves, there is a lack of explanation and detail about the movement that hampers the film. There are many topics in Blood in the Face that could be fleshed out, from the violent paramilitary group The Order (which went on a bank-robbery spree in the 1980s culminating in the murder of Denver DJ Alan Berg) to the white nationalist families who immerse their children in "the struggle." Unfortunately, the scope of Blood in the Face is so limited that it only skirts the surface of such possibilities. We hear a lot of what these people believe, but very little on how they arrived at their opinions or why.
Blood in the Face does try to provide some background through a brief examination of George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party. Rockwell, an imposing and charismatic figure, is largely credited with re-establishing the post-WW II racist movement. Rockwell is shown in news and interview footage preaching against race-mixing and homosexuals, and confronting protestors during a media scrum. Again, this assortment of clips is presented without any dates or background and no explanation is provided as to how Rockwell's foray into American Nazism sparked the larger nationalist movement.
As a result of these shortcomings there are times when Blood in the Face feels almost like a propaganda tool for the white nationalist movement. That may sound odd, but with no dissenting opinion or counter-arguments one could almost see this film doing more harm than good. It may be easy for those of us who are older or well-educated to recognize the folly of these people, but impressionable youths toying with the ideas of white supremacy may not generate the disdain which this material is supposed to generate.
First Run also warrants a slap on the wrist for its less-than-truthful promotion of Blood in the Face. The DVD loudly touts "interviews by Michael Moore" and features his image on the packaging. I can tell you, however, that the Moore-related content is very limited. Viewers only actually see Moore (Bowling for Columbine) in one instance and the now-famous director only interjects a couple of questions over the course of the entire film. Anyone purchasing this film hoping to see any of Moore's legendary mud-raking will certainly be disappointed.
Blood in the Face is presented in its original full-frame aspect ratio. Filmed in 1986, the film understandably appears dated and suffers from some graininess as a result. Considering it was shot almost twenty years ago, however, it is still a serviceable effort that doesn't hamper the viewing experience. A Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track is provided, but no subtitles are available. The only extras are five trailers for other films by First Run.
Perhaps the point Blood in the Face is trying to make is that white nationalists are so hampered by their own ignorance and behavior that merely depicting them is damning enough. However, those viewers wanting more insight into the movement or its specific aims will be more disoriented and disappointed than enlightened.
Blood in the Face is reprimanded for concealing evidence after the fact, but is released on its own recognizance.
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