Documentary doesn't follow 'Protocol'

Sometimes even intellectually stimulating subject matter can't help a bad documentary. "Protocols of Zion," a movie by Mark Levin about anti-Semitism after September 11, lacks the focus and objectivism it needs to make it a good film, although Levin presents a great deal of interesting information in the movie.

The title "Protocols of Zion" takes its name from "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," a book written in Russia in the early 20th century about clandestine meetings of the world's top Jewish leaders to discuss how to take over the world. It's pretty outrageous that this book is still accepted by some people as fact, but it's even more outrageous that until a few months ago, you could still find it at Wal-Mart, and can still buy it on Amazon.com.

The movie also looks into the associated conspiracy theory claiming that no Jews died in the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City because Jews planned the attack. Levin conducts many interviews with legitimate authorities and literally people on the street. A few lead to real conclusions, such as a medical examiner who could personally attest to that fact that "hundreds and hundreds of Jews died [in the September 11 attacks]."

But the movie is not only about the tragedy that occurred four years ago. Levin visits all kinds of people, including the owner of a Palestinian newspaper and the creator of the "Jew Watch" Web site, to examine the shape of anti-Semitism in the United States today.

He also visits a man at the National Alliance who openly markets books like "The Protocols" to neo-Nazis and accounts for Rupert Murdoch controlling a number of media outlets by saying that "Rupert Murdoch is a Jew." And while it is interesting to hear what these people say, a lot of it feels set up to make viewers anticipate what crazy thing the next crazy person is going to say.

Unfortunately for Levin and every point he makes in the movie, any legitimacy is invalidated by the unprofessional filmmaking style the director borrows exclusively from Michael Moore. By personally making his conclusions on camera, getting in verbal fights with angry black men on the street and bringing his elderly father along with him everywhere (including to a tangential cry-fest at his grandfather's grave), it's hard to respect any position Levin wants you to leave the theatre with. The movie is not objective, a serious flaw for a documentary.

Perhaps the biggest shame about "Protocols of Zion" is that its messages are very real and a large number of open-minded Americans could benefit in understanding the dangers of hateful propaganda. Unfortunately, the movie leaves no room for anyone to draw their own conclusions (because it is more or less propaganda itself) and seems instead aimed at an audience that already agrees.

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