2009 | Austria, Israel, USA | color | 91 min

English, Hebrew, w/ Eng. subtitles
Film Still Image
Documentary Feature,

Archive Details

Screened at SFJFF 2009

The first time Israeli Jewish director Yoav Shamir was called an anti-Semite by an American Jewish reviewer of his film Checkpoint (SFJFF 2004), who deemed Shamir too critical of Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians. “Until then,” says Shamir, “I had never considered the central role that anti-Semitism plays in our lives. As a young Israeli, having never experienced anti-Semitism myself, I decided to learn something about the subject.”

The bracing result is Shamir’s most personal and perhaps most daring film, in which he explores the ways contemporary Jews in Israel, Europe and America learn and think about anti-Semitism, both real and perceived. Shamir takes his probing camera and (almost) innocent questions to the halls of the Anti-Defamation League, where he is granted intimate access to the fierce crusading of its globe-trotting director, Abe Foxman. Next, Shamir tags along with Israeli teens on a trip to Auschwitz, only to wonder if growing up in the shadow of the Holocaust is healthful for these young people, who are quick to assume that “everybody hates the Jews.” And he visits controversial critics of the supposed Jewish focus on persecution, like author Norman Finkelstein, allowing them enough rope to hang themselves as well. In worrying about the future of the Jewish soul, Shamir is willing to poke a stick at a few sacred cows, but he’s too gifted a filmmaker to let ideology trump thought. Defamation is an audacious film, certain to provoke discussion and debate . . . and how Jewish is that?
—Peter L. Stein


Yoav Shamir
Yoav Shamir
Yoav Shamir
Morten Hojbjorg
Co-presented by
Contemporary Jewish Museum and DOC Film Institute at San Francisco State University
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