Defamation: A Yoav Shamir Film

Defamation, the documentary, explores the director’s personal contemporary views of Anti-Semitism, the Holocaust and Nazi’s, in a world where the only opinion is the traditional hard-line opinion and begs the question of its value in a post-Hitler world.

Defamation - A Yoav Shamir Film.

The documentary travels the world to Anti-Semitic hot spots: Israel, New York’s Crown Heights and Auschwitz Concentration Camp, in Oswiecim, Poland and to areas where anti-Semitism is discussed, freely, and often without thought of retaliation only to find that expressed views can be the trigger for terminations and deep seeded resentments and anger.

Crown Heights Brooklyn, New York.

Which, in reality, is where the documentary begins, in Crown Heights, a Brooklyn neighborhood with a mixed demographic of Jewish and African American. In 1991, the tension in Crown Heights escalated resulting in a three day stand-off between the communities. Although the film reveals very opinionated thoughts, a basic live and let live attitude has gelled and opinions haven’t changed much on either side.

In Crown Heights, Brooklyn another opinion.

The film maker seems intent on finding a severe anti-Semitic incident and heads to the ADL, the Anti-Defamation League, to find a case he could track and document.

Abe Foxman, the head of the ADL, at Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

Initially, rash words spoken in anger due to a duty assignment were not the type of incident he expected. The film maker didn’t see the harshness associated with word choice as substantial and asked for another case. The second effort involved violence against children on a bus in New York and seemed worthy, although miniscule, in comparison to the Israeli student’s annual trip to Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

The Israeli students at Auschwitz Concentration Camp march triumphant.

The documentary, of course, is edited to the film maker’s purpose which seems almost contradictory to the thesis of the film which is to discover the value of generational hatred. The contemporary views on the subject of Auschwitz , Anti-Semitism and Jewish hatred are, according to the author, archaic.

The most dreaded destination in history, today stands as a remembrance to the six million Jews that were murdered.

The most poignant sequences of the film deal with the students as they meet their ancestry in the halls of Auschwitz.  The students are documented through the semester long preparation process, a sort of pre-post traumatic stress counseling session, that attempts to brief them for their coming of age trip.

Yoav Shamir at Auschwitz.

The Israeli army, special security, accompanies the tour bus. The film shows the normalcy of first reactions by students who have never flown; been out of the country, out of the parents eye, all of the normalcy’s of youth that create a stark contrast to what awaits them upon their arrival.

The Israeli secret service (blacked out)explaining security measures.

The hatred, the anti-Semitism, that was predominate during Hitler’s reign is still predominate today as the student’s discover as they prepare for a field trip. The tour of the death camps is impacting. The students walk through sullen and then break. The atrocities of their ancestors hit them with the same strength as fire from the ovens. 

A single student in the gas chambers at Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

The skulls of the dead have never been removed all these years later. The locks of hair, from the shaven heads of the dead have become spools of thread, and are encased in a walk through along with other items, piles and piles mounds and mounds of personal items, shoes, clothes, suitcases, hair, belongings, lives. The sequences are tragic, moving and understandably defining.

The trip leaves them depleted. The joy of youth is replaced by the weight of reality.

No film on the subject of the Holocaust and Anti-Semitism would be complete without the opinion of the scholars around the world who have dedicated their lives and careers to the continuation, exploration and documentation of a time in history so filled with hatred, violence, barbaric savage rage that it has left an permanent mark. The scholars are controversial and as we learn society and popular opinion rule and freedom of speech has boundaries when dealing with explosive subjects.

Members of the ADL countering a different opinion.

The documentary director is very active in the film and acts as narrator and interviewer and moves from the living room of his grandmother, (when in need of wisdom go to the wise), to the newsroom in Israel where the publisher still bears the scar of his time in the death camps. The number on his forearm is indelible; the scar in his mind the same. Never forgive; never forget.

Yoav Shamir's grandmother.

Never forgive; never forget. The creed of the Israeli people.  The creed of all people who have endured atrocities. Never forgive; never forget.

The film is worth seeing as it is made by an Israeli film director and clearly explores a different opinion.

Director and Cinematographer: Yoav Shamir
Editor: Morteen Hojbjerb
Composer: Mischa Krausz
Running time: 93 minutes
In English and Hebrew w/English Subtitles.

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