By: Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D. JEWISH PRESS
I have been hooked on movies from the moment I saw â€œFantasiaâ€ and â€œThe Red Shoesâ€ 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 â€œromanticâ€ 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 â€œleakedâ€ or infected film making in general as unchecked plagues always do. The Big Lie may no longer be as blatant as it once was â€“ 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. â€œThe Nativity Story,â€ which premiered in Vatican City and opened everywhere else last December, depicts Mary (played by the vaguely â€œethnicâ€ Keisha Castle-Hughes of â€œWhale Riderâ€ fame) and Joseph as Palestinian Arabs â€“ 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 CuarÃ³nâ€™s adaptation of P.D. Jamesâ€™s â€œThe Children of Men.â€ The film is set in London in the year 2027 â€“ 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 â€œrefugees.â€ 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 â€œresistanceâ€ or terrorist movement is at war with a fascist British government. Immigrants are horrifically herded into prison camps that bear the heavy-handed logo â€œHomeland Securityâ€ â€“ which many on the Left have made a present-day equivalent to Auschwitz â€™s â€œArbeit Macht Frei.â€
In a final apocalyptic showdown, the in-camp â€œresistanceâ€ 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 â€œHuman Project.â€ But because we have all been subjected to similar scenes of Islamist demonstrations on our television screens, the very sight triggers and symbolizes â€œrelevanceâ€ or â€œimportant politicsâ€ precisely when none exist.
My point: even â€œescapeâ€ movies are increasingly functioning as pro-Islamist propaganda.
And now for a presumably serious political film: Emilio Estevezâ€™s â€œBobby,â€ 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 Kennedyâ€™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 Kennedyâ€™s killer and his motives.
Three women in their 70s and 80s asked aloud, â€œBut who actually killed Kennedy?â€ I stopped and told them: â€œSirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian, killed Bobby Kennedy.â€
â€œBut why?â€ one woman asked.
â€œBecause Sirhan was angry that the American government had sold military equipment to Israel .â€
This omission is ominous. In 1973, Yasir Arafatâ€™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 â€“ and America release Sirhan Sirhan.
The demands were not met and the three diplomats were executed on direct orders from Arafat â€“ the same Arafat who received the Nobel Peace Prize, was received as a king at the United Nations and with whom American presidents subsequently dined.
The film, by the way, got a seven-minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival and has been nominated for many awards.
So what am I saying? Mainly that slick action techniques, great actors, and â€œrelevantâ€ subject matter cannot substitute for the facts, or for a cogent analysis of them. â€œBobbyâ€ pretends to a political significance it does not have. People come away feeling they have just relived an important moment in American history when in fact theyâ€™ve been fed a series of well-acted fairy tales, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Dr. Phyllis Chesler, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is the author of many works including the bestseller â€œWomen and Madnessâ€ (1972), â€œThe New Anti-Semitismâ€ (2003) and â€œThe Death of Feminism: Whatâ€™s Next in the Struggle for Womenâ€™s Freedomâ€ (2005). Her forthcoming book is titled â€œThe Islamization of America .â€ An Emerita professor of psychology and women’s studies and the co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology and the National Women’s Health Network, she is on the board of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and may be contacted through her website, www.phyllis-chesler.com.