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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘movie’

Massacring the Truth

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

The so-called “Jenin Massacre” of 2002 — a massacre that never happened — is emblematic of the way the truth is violated, over and over in this conflict.

I’ve written about this several times. I discussed Palestinian filmmaker Mohammad Bakri, and his “Jenin, Jenin,” an effective propaganda piece full of false accusations and made-up atrocities (including the bombing of a hospital wing that never existed). I wrote about the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by slandered IDF soldiers. I drew attention to biased journalist Philip Reeves, now a respected correspondent for NPR, who wrote some of the earliest reports from the site, suggesting that “hundreds of corpses” were buried in the rubble.

Dr. David Zangen, a doctor who works at Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, was an eyewitness. As a reserve medical officer, he was present during the nine days of the  battle. He was interviewed recently by the IDF blog:

During the operation, we made a point to leave the hospital in Jenin unharmed so that injured people would be able to receive medical treatment. Whenever we passed by it snipers on the roof shot at us, but we didn’t fire a single bullet back at them.

Despite that, the people who were there at the time told the media that we killed 16,000 people — even though there were only 54 casualties — and that we shut off the hospital’s electricity. This lie drew a lot of harsh criticism from international organizations and news agencies.

Dr. Zangen wrote an article a few years ago called “Seven Lies about Jenin” in which he gives more details about what was in fact a massacre, not of Arabs, but of the truth.

The most shocking aspect of the affair, for me, was the cynical way in which Bakri and others were comfortable with inverting reality for ideological reasons. Bakri himself admitted that  many “details” were not exactly correct (a massive understatement), but that he served a higher truth.

And here is how Dr. Zangen, who was present at the scene (as Bakri, of course, was not) was treated when he tried to speak out:

A few months after the operation, Mohammed Bakri was about to release the movie ‘Jenin Jenin’, which projected many lies. A member of an Israeli bereaved family called me and asked me to try talk to a cinema manager in Jerusalem who was about to screen the film, and ask him to reconsider.

The manager called me and invited me to watch the film and give her my personal opinion. I came to the cinema and watched the movie, which was filled with lies. She still decided to screen the film, but invited me to stay and speak when the movie was over. I agreed. When I arrived, Mohammed Bakri was on stage and telling the audience that the reason he created the film was to show both sides of the conflict in order to promote peace.

Then I got up on the stage, told him and the audience who I was, and told him that the things he put in his movie never happened. The audience got upset, yelled at me that I was a child murderer and took the microphone from my hands. It was a tough moment for me. That’s why whenever I can, I fight to spread the truth.

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Atlas Shrugged II: The Plot Thickens

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Speaking for myself, I can’t wait to see John Galt’s 100-page soliloquy on screen, a pleasure that should be heading our way in, what? Twelve months? Eighteen?

Samantha Mathis as Dagny Taggart adds some gravitas to the second in the Atlas Shrugged series – Atlas Shrugged II: Either-Or – and director John Putch (the 2005 Poseidon AdventureThe Book of Love) keeps the story moving right along.  Some of the aesthetic choices are kind of weird (what were they thinking with the cut of that silver evening gown on Mathis?  And why the Boyz-in-the-Hood slow-mo with the Taggart Transcontinental board sauntering down the corridor?), but overall, the action is peppy and interest-keeping.

I had two strong impressions, however, watching the film yesterday.  One was quite simple: this should have been done as a TV miniseries.  Ending with cliffhangers is just tacky for theater fare.  (Changing out the lead actors between Parts is hard to overcome as well.  Hank Rearden was Grant Bowler but is now Jason Beghe – another change for the better, in my view, but it’s still jarring.  And where was Esai Morales when we needed him for Francisco D’Anconia in Part I?)

The writers (Duke Sandefur, Brian Patrick O’Toole, and Duncan Scott) tried to square the circle on the cliffhanger problem – Dagny pilots her plane into John Galt’s mountain redoubt, and Part II ends with his face in shadow as he pulls her out of the wreckage – by making it a story resolution previsaged in the movie’s opening sequence.  But, naahh, it’s still a cliffhanger, and it belongs in a cable miniseries.  I’m seeing six episodes and endless cult fascination.

The other problem is harder to solve.  The similarities between the U.S. federal government of 2012 and its fictional doppelganger in Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel are – who knew this would be weird – too obvious.  The tanking economy of Atlas Shrugged hits too close to home.  What you sit there thinking is not so much that Rand wrote prophetically as that the trappings of her fictional world are outdated and a tad annoying.

It’s as if someone had made – in 1942 – a movie of the Homer Lea geopolitical classic The Valor of Ignorance, which in 1909 prophesied a war between the US and Japan, starting with a sneak attack across the Pacific.  Had such a movie been made in 1929, it would have been appreciated later on, and perhaps become a minor classic.  But in 1942, post-Pearl Harbor audiences would have seen little point in creating a fictional story to compete with the real one.

An Atlas Shrugged made – faithfully to the novel – as a 1970s miniseries would no doubt be beloved of Rand fans today, and would figure in YouTube clips as a clincher to libertarian and conservative arguments across the infosphere.

Trying to set the story in the present day, with tablet PCs and ubiquitous information screens dotting the landscape, just highlights the incongruity of plot elements like railroads and steel – and in particular, the conundrum of the “motor of the world” device, which comes off in II as laughably silly.  With all that information at their fingertips, the remaining Great Brains of Fair Share America can’t, like, do some web searches?

One scene is especially poignant.  At the Unification Board hearing on Hank Rearden’s unauthorized shipment of Rearden metal to coal magnate Ken Danagger (Arye Gross), the scene is staged much like a 1930s show-trial, with sanctimonious officials presiding and a chamber full of press and people forming judgments as they watch.

But the theater of 20th-century collectivism has never figured on the American political scene, and it doesn’t today.  The real inroads of ideological collectivism on America have been made more sedulously and incrementally, in the most banal and uninteresting ways, with some industries sued into co-dependence here, and some silent job-killing over there.  Today’s industrial titan faces less the public calumny of show-trial tribunals than the disdain of bureaucrats.  The latter never approach their real goal head-on, but instead administer death to the titan’s bottom line by a thousand tangential cuts.

Ayn Rand’s ideas were formed by Sovietism, and ultimately, it would take a lot more editing to make Atlas Shrugged stand outside of its time on screen.  Americans saw the cartoonish bluntness of Sovietism coming; it was making the rule of law available for service to ideological arbitrariness that few recognized as a great threat 40 or 50 years ago.  That’s hard to capture in film, but the difference between that reality and Rand’s more dramatic vision of the collectivist threat lurks over the Atlas Shrugged movies like an unanswered doorbell.

‘Innocence’ Actress Says the Cast Was Duped, Muhammad’s Character Was Named ‘George’ (Video)

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

The 80 cast and crew members employed by the makers of the movie that has provoked the Islamic world said told CNN on Wednesday that they were “grossly misled” about the film’s intent and expressed regrets over the violence the movie has been causing.

“The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer,” they said in a statement to CNN about the movie, “Innocence of Muslims.”

“We are 100% not behind this film and were grossly misled about its intent and purpose,” continued the statement to CNN. “We are shocked by the drastic rewrites of the script and lies that were told to all involved. We are deeply saddened by the tragedies that have occurred.”

Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed Tuesday in Benghazi, Libya by a terrorist team taking advantage of the local outrage over the film, which ridicules the prophet Muhammad.

A casting call published in July 2011 in Backstage magazine and in other publications listed the movie title as “Desert Warrior,” and presented it as an “historical Arabian Desert adventure film.”

An actress in the film who asked not to be identified said the original script did not include a character named Prophet Muhammad.

The actress said she spoke on Wednesday with the producer, who is identified in the advertisement as Sam Bassiel. “He said he wrote the script because he wants the Muslims to quit killing,” she said. “I had no idea he was doing all this.”

The AP has since verified the man’s identity as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, age 55, a Coptic Christian.

“I would never be involved in a film to ever hurt or bring harm to anybody,” the bactress told CNN. “This makes me sick to my stomach to think that I was involved in that movie that brought death to somebody else.”

According to the actress, the character of Muhammad was named George during the shooting.

A member of the production staff who worked directly on the film and has a copy of the original script told CNN it does not mention Muhammad or Islam.

The Wall Street Journal identified the filmmaker as Sam Bacile, an Israeli-American real estate developer. The Journal reported that, in its telephone interview with Bacile, he characterized his film as “a political effort to call attention to the hypocrisies of Islam.”

“Islam is a cancer,” he told the newspaper. “The movie is a political movie. It’s not a religious movie.”

“This guy is totally anonymous. At this point no one can confirm he holds an Israeli citizenship and even if he did we are not involved,” ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said. “No Israeli institution, government department or office has any involvement in this. This guy acted on his own behalf.”

Consultant Steve Klein told CNN he worked with Bacile on the movie and said the filmmaker had gone into hiding.

James Horn, a friend who has worked with Mr. Klein in anti-Muslim activities for several years, told the NY Times that he believed Mr. Klein was involved in providing technical assistance to the film and advice on the script. Mr. Horn said he called Mr. Klein on Wednesday. “I said, ‘Steve, did you do this?’ He said, ‘Yep.’ ”

“He’s very depressed, and he’s upset,” Klein told CNN on Wednesday regarding Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. “I talked to him this morning, and he said that he was very concerned for what happened to the ambassador.”

Klein said it was not the film’s fault that protests had turned bloody.

An online trailer for the film depicts Muslims very much the way Nazi propaganda movies depicted Jews and their plot to “conquer the world.”

Muhammad is shown as a womanizer, child molester and bloodied killer.

The movie, which was posted in July on YouTube, got more notice after Egyptian television aired segments and anti-Islam activists, including Egyptian-born Coptic Christian Morris Sadek, promoted it online.

Florida Qoran burning pastor Terry Jones said he had been contacted to help distribute the film.

“The film is not intended to insult the Muslim community, but it is intended to reveal truths about Muhammad that are possibly not widely known,” Jones told CNN.

“It is very clear that God did not influence him (Muhammad) in the writings of the Qoran,” said Jones, who blames Muslims’ thin skins, rather than the film, for the riots and murders.

New York Times Bestseller List Bad News For Obama?

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Do book sales reflect the general mood of the American electorate? If so, the current New York Times bestseller list does not carry good news for President Obama.

Three books critical of the president topped the list, while only one book praising Obama made the non-extended list, coming in at #15.

At number 2 is Dinesh D’Souza’s Obama’s America, which argues that “Obama’s goal to downsize America is in plain sight but ignored by everyone.”

The book is the namesake of D’Souza’s wildly popular movie “2016: Obama’s America,” which will expand from 1,000 to 1725 screens across the country this weekend. The movie reportedly earned $6.3 million in just 1091 screens last weekend, bringing its total earnings to over $9.2 million.

Taking the number 3 spot on the Times’ bestseller list is Ed Klein’s The Amateur, which has graced the bestseller list for weeks. The book advertises that it pulls back the curtain on “one of the most secretive White Houses in history.”

And coming in at number 8 this week is Fool Me Twice: Obama’s Shocking Plans for the Next Four Years Exposed. The book, by radio host and Jewish Press columnist Aaron Klein and Brenda J. Elliott, details specific policy prescriptions Obama will attempt to enact if he is reelected in November. It has been featured on the New York Times bestseller list since its release earlier this month.

The Lion of Judah Rises

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Many Jewish people, including myself, avoid Holocaust movies because it is far too painful to watch the dehumanization of those we love. Still, facing what is painful is an important part of life. “Lion of Judah” is not an easy film to watch, but for the next generation it will be a valuable resource for educating children in a world without survivors. More importantly, it is centered on the incredible, Leo Zisman, the Lion of Judah.

An unsinkable man with a zest for life, Leo shares the most intimate details of his life in the Kovno Ghetto and more than one concentration camp. It’s shocking to hear stories of incredible brutality told by this rather gentle and humorous man to young listeners on a March of the Living trip.

Although the film would have been magnificent with Leo just sitting in the comfort of his home and telling his story, the movie also features the perspective of the group of students. One student had recently discovered she was actually Jewish, others knew they were, but had no idea what it meant. There were also non-Jews in the film crew. It was a very diverse group of people who journeyed back to Eastern Europe to follow Leo’s life path through a manmade hell.

Many of the students are truly stunned with what they found. Without giving too much away, the group encounters truly virulent Anti-Semitism, and finds themselves face to face with the images of genocide. One tragic scene shows “man on the street” interviews in Poland about Jews. Most of the young Polish interviewees seem resentful of Jews and try to minimize the nation’s collective guilt over the genocide. While a few express and show sympathy, most are tired of the subject. In contrast, the Jewish group members seem to be genuinely shocked at how little they knew about the Holocaust and are desperate to understand.

A strange connection is made for one participant when he actually finds a bone fragment scattered in the dirt making it clear that the verdant fields around him are graveyards. Leo is disgusted with the cleanliness and sterility of the camps turned museum, and reminds them how filthy it was when in use.

One of the most powerful ways the movie helps move the journey along is interjecting actual footage of the Holocaust, highlighting Leo’s descriptions in a way that truly chills the heart. Although the moviemakers insist they took the least graphic clips, the scenes are heartrending and parental discretion should be advised as some of the scenes will bring an adult to tears. Yet, few moments can compare to when Leo breaks down and describes how a “German take(s) a baby, maybe a month old, and rip it up like a chicken…” Quite a few in the audience, including myself started to cry, as Leo tries to wrap his mind around how a man could do that to such an innocent.

Although the question is never answered, it is clear that the students take the message. When they came back home, each seemed to have formed a deeper connection to what it means to be Jewish. Instead of wallowing in sadness, the movie ends optimistically and with the message that in spite of the horrors found in it, the world is a beautiful place. When one hears Leo still able to joke after all he has seen, one can have hope for the future.

Leo’s story is so incredible that I recommend not only seeing the movie, but getting a copy of Mr. Zisman’s book, Ani Ma’amin. The story of his survival is so miraculous, Leo has to actually count the ways in which he cheated death. Although every story is incredible, my personal favorite is how Leo rallied his fellow children to march into Auschwitz in formation, singing Ani Ma’amin as a show of defiance. An angel must have put it into his head, because not only was it a way to keep up morale among the Jewish students, it also impressed the Germans enough to allow them to live. I will remember that story for the rest of my life, and sang Ani Ma’amin to myself the entire way home.

The movie has its flaws; the score is overly dramatic and should have made better use of silence. I applaud the producers for not going the traditional Klezmer route and trying to use something more original. At its best, there is actual street music from Poland to highlight the culture, but at dramatic scenes, the music is heavy thudded sounds that scream, “here is a dramatic scene.” Considering the film is showing a gas chamber, there is little need to add to the effect.

Everything is Fake Now: The Virtual Reality of Politics

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away,” Philip K. Dick said, when asked to define what reality is. Dick was a Science Fiction writer and that seems appropriate enough we are living in a Science Fiction world where there is no reality anymore, because the real goes away, but the unreal does not.

Virtual reality, it turned out, was not some complicated gizmo that made you look like a blind skier and allowed you to enter into another world, instead it was an unreal world being comprehensively overlaid on top of our own. The lines between the real and the unreal haven’t blurred because the unreal has gotten so much more sophisticated. The unreal is more fake than ever, but discerning that has become more difficult now that the real has gone away.

As we watch the news covering a story, what we are actually watching is the media making up a story and then telling that story incessantly and embedding it in every nook and cranny of their coverage. This blurring of the lines between the real and the fake is not happening thanks to the magic of technology, but the prosaic methods of complete insincerity.

The fake is being overlaid on the real, like men fighting on top of a board with a movie of a train passing by in the background to give the impression that they are fighting on top of it. Such cheap trickery defines our media environment where reporters barge into events and badger the participants into playing along with their movie. Or they just play the clip of actual events and frame them so that everyone hears their version of what is going on.

There’s Godzilla and we know he’s real because we can see Tokyo in the background. There’s the latest media narrative and we know it’s real, because we can see Tampa in the background as some blow-dried buffoon does breathing exercises before commencing to tell us that the Republican Party, which supports things that would have made Ike and Ron have coronaries, has gone so far to the right that it might as well be a Godzilla of reactionary running dog capitalism.

This is our shoddy virtual reality with a CNN or MSNBC logo planted on top. There is you still sitting on your same old couch, watching Chris Matthews yelling himself hoarse about racism, because racism is our virtual reality. It is the world that we are supposed to live in and Chris’ job, for which he receives some 5 million a year, is to convince us that we are living in it.

“Racism,” Chris yells at the screen, like the idiot shaman of some stone age tribe, and those dull-witted enough to believe him nod knowingly, because it makes them feel as if they know something. And in a world where nothing is real, knowing something makes them feel a little less confused. They don’t understand why the prices are suddenly so high and the bank won’t give them a loan– but they can understand that Republicans are bad people and somehow responsible for it.

Some 70 percent of Barack Obama’s Twitter followers may be fake, but why quibble at such numbers. The people who decided to make Obama popular did so through constant repetition that translated into the peer pressure of the trend. Obama became a trending topic and everyone followed along because in an unreal world, you follow the unreal leader.

Obama is fake, his popularity is fake, but it’s also real, because fake is now the ultimate reality. The purveyors of fakeness have demonstrated their ability to transform the unreal into the real through manufactured consensus. By insisting that something unpopular was popular often enough, they made it popular. And by insisting that something popular is really unpopular, they did the opposite.

The Solomon Asch study showed that people will change their correct answers to conform with the wrong answers that are being given by others. The false consensus has operated on that same paradigm, convincing people of two lies. The first lie is that the wrong answer is the right answer. And the second lie that everyone else has already agreed that the wrong answer is correct.

2016: Effective, Well Done, a Caveat or Two

Monday, August 27th, 2012

I was surprised to discover that Dinesh D’Souza’s 2016: Obama’s America opened in my little town on Friday. I wasn’t expecting that, given the limited release and our off-the-beaten-track charm. But there it was, so I went to the very first showing at 12:30 PM.

The effectiveness of 2016 comes from its use of imagery to overlay the narrative. It’s one thing to read D’Souza’s thesis on Barack Obama (Jr. and Sr.). It’s another thing to see images conveying its elements.

D’Souza starts the narrative with himself, which is a questionable composition choice. I know one of his chief themes is contrasting Obama’s biography with his, since they were born in the same year and both came from a background steeped in anti-colonialism. But it might have been more powerful to begin by painting Obama, and then bring in the contrast with D’Souza.

The sequence comes off like D’Souza presenting his life as the ordinary standard from which Obama, Jr. deviates. I believe what he means to convey is that it is possible – and in fact better – to overcome your philosophical roots in anti-colonialism: look what Dinesh D’Souza did, as opposed to Obama, Jr. That’s a valid point, but it could be made more explicitly. The passage with the brown hands – D’Souza observing that he and Obama, Jr. are the same color – comes off unfortunately like a cheap, throw-away impression. If it had been paired with an outright statement that “brown people” don’t have to obsess over race and a history of colonialism that is now 50 years in the rearview mirror, it would, for me, have been more effective.

D’Souza’s thesis is basically the narrow one that Obama, Jr. is an anti-colonialist like Obama, Sr.:  that that is the “dream” from the president’s father, and it animates whatever Obama, Jr. does in politics. The film is very good at putting the viewer in the milieu of Jakarta or Nairobi, which continue to feel “different” enough to engage the American viewer’s sense of distance and wonder. Conveying the difference of Obama, Jr.’s childhood and his idea of cultural roots – the difference from American life – is the movie’s most effective accomplishment.

Insofar as he makes his own point about Obama, Jr. and anti-colonialism, D’Souza does it well. I think it would have been useful to develop the idea of “anti-colonialism” more, so that it was clearer how it relates to the president’s current policies. An important point is also begging to be made, and isn’t in the movie: that anti-colonialism is a dead idea, like all the others Obama and his advisors work from. It is an antique, like Marxism, with its spirit gone and nothing left but a deformed death mask: suitable for museums but not for modern use.

Not only was anti-colonialism never usefully descriptive of reality – it doesn’t even matter anymore. The fight against colonialism was won half a century ago, and two generations have emerged that never knew it. As with the themes about “war on women” and “racism” and other rhetorical campaigns waged by Team Obama in the language of 1960s radicalism, anti-colonialism is a dead letter. It is pathetic and sad to think that policy for America today might be made on the premise of it.

Imagine carrying the elaborate grudge inside yourself for 40-odd years, as reality forges ahead around you, making it ridiculous. Obama is surrounded by practitioners who have made a set of outdated grudges their life’s work, and they are still battering on the people with their financially costly themes of anger and vengeance – none of them updated from ca. 1968.

The film predicts, in broad strokes, what America will look like in 2016 if Obama is reelected. The pattern of “grudge-holding battening” will simply drive up the national debt. 2016 suggests a figure of $20 trillion, which is perfectly reasonable. The film makes the point that if America’s monetary solvency collapses, there is nowhere else in the world to go: no refuge from the chaos. That’s true, and it’s why even our enemies are sticking with the dollar and waiting to position themselves better for the aftermath.

D’Souza’s other major prediction is that a “United States of Islam” will emerge across North Africa and the Middle East by 2016. With this, I do not agree. The emerging Islamist governments of Egypt, Turkey, and Iran will continue to compete with each other for primacy. Saudi Arabia will remain on her path of sclerotic “leadership.” Other Muslim nations will coalesce around them and loose “blocs” will form and fall apart. The prominent Islamist nations will profess friendship and unity on a regular basis, but that won’t be the governing dynamic at the deck-plate level. To unite a caliphate, you need a caliph, and there won’t be one by 2016.  There will still be several aspiring to the job.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/j-e-dyer/2016-effective-well-done-a-caveat-or-two/2012/08/27/

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