Protocols of Zion (2005)


(director: Marc Levin; cinematographer: Mark Benjamin; editor: Ken Eluto; music: John Zorn; Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Marc Levin/Steve Kalafer; ThinkFilm and HBO/Cinemax; 2005)
“Traces the oldest prejudice in the world, the hatred of the Jews, and how it rears its ugly head in contemporary times.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Jewish-American filmmaker Marc Levin (“Slam”) traces the oldest prejudice in the world, the hatred of the Jews, and how it rears its ugly head in contemporary times. He starts after 9/11 and picks up on the unbelievable statements made by the lunatic fringe, buttressed by a Turkish newspaper, that no Jews died in the World Trade Center because four thousand of them were warned to stay away on that fatal day. From there the filmmaker latches onto the notorious anti-Semitic book, Protocols of the Elders of Zion, that claims to have minutes of a secret meeting of Jews to gain control of the world. In the 1920s it was exposed as a forged document from the late-19th century invented by Czar Nicholas II’s secret police and released to the world around 1905. Such prominent people in the modern world as Henry Ford made it public by distributing copies free of charge to car buyers, Adolf Hitler used it in his hate speeches, in recent times former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad referred to it when stating “Jews rule the world by proxy,” it was made into a movie for Egyptian TV, Hamas has it as part of its founding charter, white supremacists sell it as part of their staple of hate literature, and militant blacks use it to stir up their followers with hatred for the Jews.

In order to find out why there are those in the world still blaming the Jews for everything that goes wrong, the filmmaker personalizes the story and meets the ignorant people who are so blinded with hatred that they believe such nonsense as The Protocols and all other lies that link the Jews with an international cabal. This brings him into contact with such ugly characters as street corner instigators, an Arab newspaper editor in New Jersey who printed The Protocols, neo-Nazi organizers, and hostile talk-radio callers on extremist Frank Weltner’s radio show (this weirdo also runs a Web site called “Jew Watch”). Finally giving up trying to convince such hateful people of their Jewish misconceptions, he shows off a Holocaust survivor speaking to a group (but it’s doubtful if even his presence would have convinced Holocaust deniers such as Mel Gibson’s dad that he was wrong–the film also shows his son Mel defending his The Passion of the Christ film as a return to the church’s old teachings of blaming the Jews as the Christ killer). For further proof the earnest filmmaker then points his camera at the Jewish graves of the many who were killed at the WTC, exposes the falsehood that the Jews control the media as evidenced by media mogul Rupert Murdoch (whom the bigots say must be Jewish because he’s a media mogul) and ridicules the ignorant street notion that the “Jew York” mayor during 9/11 was none other than “Jewliani.” What can you say to such attempts to scapegoat a people for every wrong in society?

Even though the film deals with the low-end bigots (talking only with the misinformed, the crazies, the uneducated and the holders of outrageous beliefs) and doesn’t say anything we didn’t already know, it’s still worthwhile looking up close at those who spread these vile lies and make their hatred contagious and potentially lethal. Its main problem is that it lacks focus and tries to branch out too far afield to give its subject matter the more incisive depth it deserves. It veers too much between tracing post-9/11 and historical anti-Semitism, never satisfactorily finishing the task it originally intended to zero in on.