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Celluloid Fantasies


I have been hooked on movies from the moment I saw “Fantasia” and “The Red Shoes” at the Windsor Movie Theatre in Boro Park when I was six or seven years old. Movie-going, like book-reading, became permanent habits and I eventually turned to foreign films in the same way that I turned to classical theatre, music, poetry, and literature: in order to understand the human condition. A little bit of dazzle and drama were fine too.

Increasingly, movies have morphed into mere entertainment; sensationalism and vulgarity have become routine. An addiction to sadistic action, serial killers, car crashes and “romantic” crime families dominate. But things have now taken a turn for the worse.

The celluloid presentation of the Intifada of 2000 is characterized by sophisticated doctoring of film footage and lethally anti-Semitic story-lines. This has now “leaked” or infected filmmaking in general as unchecked plagues always do. The Big Lie may no longer be as blatant as it once was – which makes it more, not less, dangerous.

Many Hollywood movies no longer function merely as escape entertainment. More and more we can detect a coded propaganda sub-text to the most escapist of movies and a failure to connect the dots in the so-called serious movies.

Three examples will do. “The Nativity Story,” which premiered in Vatican City and opened everywhere else last December, depicts Mary (played by the vaguely “ethnic” Keisha Castle-Hughes of “Whale Rider” fame) and Joseph as Palestinian Arabs – not as the Jews they really were but as anti-historical pre-Islamic Muslims with faintly Arabic accents. Thus, the family of Jesus is depicted as persecuted Palestinians on the run from the evil Jewish King Herod.

Since Christians on the West Bank today are in actuality persecuted by Muslims and protected by Jewish Israel, is this film meant to hide these facts? Or merely to inflame audiences against Jews?

Take Alfonso Cuarón’s adaptation of P.D. James’s “The Children of Men.” The film is set in London in the year 2027 – and a very bleak time it is. Nuclear wars and ceaseless terrorism have devastated the planet; violence is pandemic, the British government is ruthlessly brutalizing “refugees.” Human extinction looms. No woman has gotten pregnant in 18 years.

You might think this is something Swift, Orwell, or Atwood might have written, but the film has no real politics. It is, however, rife with symbols that substitute for a real story line. A nasty “resistance” or terrorist movement is at war with a fascist British government. Immigrants are horrifically herded into prison camps that bear the heavy-handed logo “Homeland Security” – which many on the Left have made a present-day equivalent to Auschwitz’s “Arbeit Macht Frei.”

In a final apocalyptic showdown, the in-camp “resistance” has degenerated into a mob of angry, armed, and keffiyah-bedecked shooters who are carrying signs and shouting slogans in Arabic. The scene bears absolutely no relationship to the rather poignant story of the miraculous birth of a black girl-child who is shepherded through Hell to the safety of the mythical “Human Project.” But because we have all been subjected to similar scenes of Islamist demonstrations on our television screens, the very sight triggers and symbolizes “relevance” or “important politics” precisely when none exist.

My point: even “escape” movies are increasingly functioning as pro-Islamist propaganda.

And now for a presumably serious political film: Emilio Estevez’s “Bobby,” a fictional account of the lives of 24 people who were present in the Ambassador hotel when Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. The film boasts many stars including Anthony Hopkins, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy, Sharon Stone, Demi Moore, and Laurence Fishburne. It also has historically accurate archival footage of Robert Kennedy’s speeches.

When the movie ended, audience members lingered and engaged in hushed and somber conversations. Clearly they felt this was a serious film about a serious matter. Pardon me? The film pointedly erased all facts about Kennedy’s killer and his motives.

Three women in their 70s and 80s asked aloud, “But who actually killed Kennedy?” I stopped and told them: “Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian, killed Bobby Kennedy.”

“But why?” one woman asked.

“Because Sirhan was angry that the American government had sold military equipment to Israel.”

This omission is ominous. In 1973, Yasir Arafat’s Fatah and Black September terrorist groups kidnapped American diplomats George Curtis Moore and Cleo Noel Jr., and Belgian diplomat Guy Eid in Khartoum, Sudan. They demanded that Jordan release a Black September leader, Germany release some members of the Baader-Meinhof gang – and America release Sirhan Sirhan.

About the Author: Dr. Phyllis Chesler is a professor emerita of psychology, a Middle East Forum fellow, and the author of fifteen books including “Women and Madness” (1972), “The New Anti-Semitism” (2003), and her latest, “An American Bride in Kabul” (2013). Her articles are archived at www.phyllis-chesler.com.


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