From The Film Collaborative
The obnoxious phrase "more relevant than ever" is more relevant than ever to films about anti-Semitism. Jewish Film Week, currently taking place at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, devotes a special corner to such works. One of the most prominent is "The Conspiracy," a documentary about the longstanding relationship between Jew-hatred and conspiracy theories. He does this in animation, and with the voices of Mayim Bialik, Jason Alexander, Liev Schreiber and others.
The film focuses on the characters of three Jews who fell victim to conspiracy theories because of their origins: Max Verbrug, Leon Trotsky and the best known of all, Alfred Dreyfus.
"It was clear to me that I would not make a film about another anti-Semitic crazy person and another anti-Semitic lunatic," director Maxim Pozdorovka said in an interview with Walla Tarbut on the occasion of the screenings in Jerusalem. "My idea was to deal with Jews who became scapegoats, and their families who subsequently became scapegoats themselves. The clearest example of this was Alfred Dreyfus, the French officer accused of espionage and treason just because he was Jewish, and his granddaughter Madeleine, who a few decades later was labeled because of her last name and murdered in the Holocaust. During the research for the film, I was amazed that all these characters were aware of their status as scapegoats, so it was interesting to present the story from that perspective."
"It was clear to me that I wouldn't make a movie about another anti-Semitic crazy person and another anti-Semitic lunatic." Maxim Pozdorovkin/The Film Collaborative
I guess you're already tired of the question of why you made the animated movie.
"Yes, it's a recurring question. Look, the movie is about things that happened before the invention of cinema, and before the invention of photography, so they don't have photographic documentation, so how can I present them on screen? I didn't want to create a sequence of talking heads of historians talking about the past. It's not cinematic. Animation was the solution."
You're probably also tired of the question with "Waltz with Bashir" affecting you.
"You don't ask that too much. The film has a lot of public screenings, but the audience isn't made up of movie mice, so they don't ask which films influenced me. To your question - yes, of course, 'Waltz with Bashir' influenced me. It used to be not believed that it was possible to make ambitious animated docu-films. Today we accept that a film like this can formulate an idea."
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"Waltz with Bashir" was influential, of course. From The Conspiracy/The Film Collaborative
The idea of the "conspiracy" is that for centuries, the core of anti-Semitism has not changed. It is rooted in the conspiracy theory that there is a small group operating in the dark and ruling the world, and those pulling the strings are Jews. Water flows in the river, empires rise and fall, the years pass and the idea does not change, only takes different forms.
"It's a toxic, deadly and pretty idiotic idea. It's full of contradictions, inconsistent and makes a lot of intellectual shortcuts," says the director.
Still, it is more popular than ever.
"Yes. In an age when the whole world is on the Internet and algorithms control us, the antisemitic narrative is becoming more global. I was surprised not long ago to see the extreme right in India portray George Soros as pulling the strings, even though India doesn't really have a history of anti-Semitism or Judaism."
What are the chances that this idea will disappear or even fade?
"The history of popular but bad ideas is an interesting story. Because they are unfounded, there is a chance that they will simply crumble. It happens sometimes, but I wouldn't count on it."
What do you think should be done with antisemitic texts like "Mein Kampf" and "The Eternal Jew." Cancel them, or teach them in the classroom?
"Maybe I'm naïve, but I'm against their censorship. If anti-Semitism is so global, I think the effective thing is to present it and then break it down, demonstrating how arbitrary and unfounded it is. Besides, I don't think Maine Kampf is currently the leading consumer product for anti-Semites. They can consume information about the conspiracy theories on television or online."
The conspiracy against America, the Jews - and the world. From The Conspiracy/The Film Collaborative
What's the most interesting response you've received so far?
"A lot of people are grateful that I made the movie. An interesting story that happened to me: after one of the screenings, I talked about the Chemtrails conspiracy theory (according to which the white trails left behind by airplanes are nothing more than a deliberate attempt by mysterious forces to poison us). I said, of course, that it was arbitrary and unfounded, and then one woman in the audience handed me a note that said this conspiracy theory was actually pure truth."
"Then I went home and dove down the rabbit hole myself. I watched films that explained in very detail why the theory is true and it took me a long time to gather all the materials that completely refute it. Most people aren't willing to spend the time debunking the conspiracies, which is why they are so dangerous."
Pozdorovkin is an American of Russian descent, and says he feels great shame about the actions of his homeland. At the age of 42, he has already created a variety of talked-about and appreciated films on various and strange topics, from Puy Riot to robots. He also has a Ph.D. from Harvard and will soon be taking a course on conspiracy theories and propaganda at university, but he hasn't been on campus for a while and therefore doesn't want to express an opinion on what has been happening in academia in recent months.
Israeli premiere at Jewish Film Week. From The Conspiracy/The Film Collaborative
You shot and edited the film before October 10th, and everything that followed that. Would you change anything about it today?
"Actually, no. There has been a wave of anti-Semitism regardless of recent events. The discourse was not about the Middle East, it was about the idea of Jewish domination. I think it is important to distinguish this issue from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is a different and obviously very complex issue. I also think it's important to distinguish between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism."
What is antisemitism? Can we, like pornography, recognize antisemitism when we see it?
"I think it's a nice parallel. I think that because the skeleton of anti-Semitism has remained the same for so many years, you can recognize it when you see it. It is even more important to identify what is not an anti-Semitic claim, because then it can be recognized as legitimate criticism and dealt with."
On the one hand, it's a film full of passion and creativity, and on the other hand, it deals with depressing subjects, so I wonder if you suffered or enjoyed the work.
"Of course I didn't enjoy pogroms and the like, but I did enjoy doing animation and working with the wonderful team I had. The challenge was to deal with such explosive and complex topics without any researcher coming along and telling me I was speaking nonsense. That didn't happen, so I'm very proud of my achievement."
"The Conspiracy" will be screened today (Sunday 12.17) at the Jerusalem Cinematheque at 00:13 and Wednesday 2.<> at the Jerusalem Cinematheque at the same time. To order tickets, and for details on the other films and screenings at the event, see the official website.
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