Reviews for February 11th, 2010
American Radical: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein
Directed by David Ridgen and Nicolas Rossier.
This provocative and timely documentary focuses on the controversies surrounding the perspective of Norman Finkelstein, political scientist and author of The Holocaust Industry, on the conflict in the Middle East. He argues in the book that Israel has no right to exploit the memories of the Holocaust to justify and advance their military power over the Palestinians. He also states in another one of his writings that the Palestinians actually are natives of Palestine and rightfully deserve to get their land back. Throughout that argument, he criticizes the book From Time Immemorial by Joan Peters while claiming that her argument that the non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine emigrated from other countries is essentially a hoax and propaganda. Finkelstein gets into serious trouble that threatens his tenure at DePaul University when he criticizes The Case for Israel, by Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, and claims that it was fraudulent and plagiarized---although in the “Democracy Now!” televised debate between him and Dershowitz, according to his good friend/scholar Noam Chomsky, he shouldn’t have focused so excessively on the plagiarism accusation rather than tackling book’s fraudulent content itself. Co-directors David Ridgen and Nicolas Rossier do an admirable job of showing what makes Finkelstein’s ideas so controversial and how each time he lectures publicly, he’s unafraid to spark heated arguments and to speak his mind without any euphemisms. In a lecture at a university, he responds to a student crying by says her tears are “crocodile tears” and that she shouldn’t be bringing up the Jews’ suffering in the Holocaust to justify their current occupation of Palestinian territory---he reminds her that his own parents survived the Holocaust and he lost many family members there. Even though he might seem insane to some of you who oppose his views, keep in mind that there’s a fine line between genius and madness. He often come across as very stubborn and not quite diplomatic in the way he speaks with so much rage in his voice, but he’s nonetheless bright, articulate and very well-read. When called a radical, Finkelstein keenly responds that there are many things that he views as radically wrong in this world. Above all, Finkelstein’s arguments should the public to debate and, most significantly, to critically think, which are essential ingredients in an open democracy----if you recall, Hitler once stated, “How fortunate for leaders that men do not think.” This documentary allows Finkelstein to openly and engagingly express his mind about politics while concurrently giving you an understanding of what makes him so passionate and enraged about politics to begin with. At a running time of only 84 minutes, American Radical: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein manages to be a well-balanced, important and timely documentary that’s provocative and eye-opening regardless of whether or not you agree with Finkelstein’s controversial arguments. Number of times I checked my watch: 1 Released by Typecast Releasing. Opens at the Anthology Film Archives.