We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Marc Levin wasn’t quite sure what he thought about an alleged uptick in anti-Semitism—so he decided to make a film about it. A rambling and inconclusive but intermittently incisive tour of neo-Nazis, radical Muslims, and other conspiracy-inclined types, Protocols of Zion is not a serious investigation. Indeed, the film doesn’t even establish the seriousness of its subject. Hatred of Jews flourishes among the usual cranks and is officially sanctioned in such countries as Egypt, where the Protocols of the title—an early-20th-century forgery that purports to be a Jewish master plan to control the world—was adapted into a TV miniseries. But when Levin drops a lurid snippet of the Egyptian series into the mix with a bit of the Nazis’ The Eternal Jew, the connection is murky. In the West, neoconservative pundits have loudly asserted an increase in anti-Jewish attitudes, notably when trying to demonize the French government for not supporting the invasion of Iraq. Yet aside from Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, which revived the hoary Christ-killer charge, Levin’s film doesn’t locate any return to anti-Semitism among mainstream Westerners. Best known for Slam, an awkward documentary/fiction hybrid about a D.C. drug dealer and poetry-slam star, Levin here covers for his lack of a thesis by making himself his real subject. He meets the proprietors of the Arab Voice newspaper and Jew Watch Web site, and visits the National Alliance, whose warehouse stuffed with Nazi paraphernalia caused a collective gasp when Protocols of Zion was shown at the Berlin Film Festival. Along the way, he debates some total idiots, who insist that Rupert Murdoch must be Jewish (because all media moguls are), that Rudolph Guiliani is Jewish (because his name contains that telltale “gui”), and that Hitler was not the kind of guy who would commit suicide (even though he did). Whether dragging his father with him, detouring to a seder at which Lou Reed is a guest, or staging his own reaction to Daniel Pearl’s murder, the director seems lost about half of the time. If there’s a slick global conspiracy to control the image of Jews, he’s clearly not part of it. —Mark Jenkins