Combustible Celluloid
With: Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Fareed Zakaria, George Will, Deborah Lipstadt, Julianna Margulies (narrator)
Written by: Andrew Goldberg
Directed by: Andrew Goldberg
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 83
Date: 02/21/2020

Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Starting Hate

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

While it certainly could have dug deeper, this documentary is nonetheless an important attempt to address antisemitism logically and without anger, though a certain painful dismay still comes through.

In Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations, documentary filmmaker Andrew Goldberg takes a hard look at the drastic increase of antisemitism in the world, its history, and the insidious ways it spreads. He looks at four countries in four segments. In the United States, shootings in synagogues are on the rise, seemingly enabled by President Trump. In Hungary, extreme right-wing prime minster Viktor Orbán painted himself as a hero, pitted against the supposed evildoings of the Hungarian-born American Jew George Soros.

In the United Kingdom the left-wing Labour Party surprisingly finds itself infiltrated by antisemites. And in France, Islamic Radicalism is a threat. Goldberg discovers that, not only is antisemitism spread through hate and fear, but it can also be spread through ignorance. Finally, the movie serves as a warning that if this invasive intolerance is not addressed, it could easily spread to any other kind of group perceived as different.

Director Andrew Goldberg begins Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations with the thesis that antisemitism has been growing worse lately, and he provides a little history about discrimination against Jews, showing exaggerated drawings and other propaganda. The movie is clear that, while some hate and fear Jews, others take advantage of that hate and fear, feeding off of it to gain power. (An interview with a former recruiter for a white supremacist group actually describes horrifying techniques used.)

Goldberg sometimes lands amazingly intimate interviews, such as with an openly racist North Carolina political hopeful, or a Hungarian holocaust survivor who shares a bit of Orbán propaganda, even though he sometimes seems to be employing Michael Moore-like techniques. In more traditional talking-head interviews, former U.S. President Bill Clinton offers some thought-provoking insights, and it's difficult not to be moved by some of the Jewish interview subjects, who express disbelief and heartbreak.

But the movie lacks a strong conclusion, other than the fact that this is all really awful. Nevertheless, Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations should be seen, even if those who need it most likely won't bother.

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