The ongoing Boston Palestine Film Festival (Oct. 16-Nov. 1) and the upcoming Boston Jewish
Film Festival (Nov. 4-15) take place, presumably
coincidentally, almost back to back. David Ridgen and Nicolas Rossier's "American
Radical: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein," which screens as part of the Palestine
Festival tonight at 8:30 pm at the Museum
of Fine Arts (the
festival's other venues include The Coolidge Corner Theatre, the Harvard Film
Archive and others), would be an appropriate selection for both.
Not that the title academic and political firebrand
is the type to resolve differences - indeed, he has stirred passionate
controversy and divisive opinions for some 25 years with such books as "The
Holocaust Industry" and "Beyond Chutzpah." The son of Holocaust survivors, Finkelstein
argues that Israel in its
dealings with Palestine
should not employ Nazi tactics and that the Holocaust should not be exploited
to further a political agenda.
The fiery response such ideas arouse are recorded by the
filmmakers as they follow the charismatic and intense academic and activist (in
the Hollywood version I see John Malkovich cast in the role) to various appearances
and debates from 2000-2008 and in cities ranging from Beirut
to Montreal. Though
siding with their subject, Ridgen and Rossier allow equal time for his
detractors, such as Rabbi David Olesker and Alan Dershowitz. Even Finkelstein's
mentor Noam Chomsky acknowledges that Finkelstein might be too caustic for his
own good, and notes that, in an infamous incident, his accusing Dershowitz of
plagiarism was an unfortunate distraction. Indeed, it might have cost him his
tenure at DePaul University, which appears to be a case
of silencing an alleged anti-Israeli voice through the anti-American
suppression of free speech.
In short, "American Radical" will stimulate discussion about one
of the day's most important issues. Surely the sign of a significant film and
of a worthwhile film festival.
PS:It looks like Norman Finkelstein will be attending the screening. Should be an interesting evening.