The Boston Palestine Film Festival


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.

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