Three controversial films were screened at the AFR festival in Hollywood Sunday afternoon – The Full Story (a settler-sympathetic short from Israel), Submission – Part 1 (excerpted scenes from the movie that cost Theo van Gogh his life) and the world premiere of the documentary Islam: What the West Needs to Know. Security was tight because, in these odd times, it is the non-PC films that bring us to the edge of danger in the way movies like Battle of Algiers did in the old days. The VIP lounge and the balcony were closed for these screenings because of unspecified threats. But enough about the perils of movie-going, here’s my take on the films themselves.
From what I understand, the makers of Islam: What the West Needs to Know (director: Bryan Daly) were reluctant to screen with Submission because they didn’t want to be associated with the notorious film, which is strange since their documentary is easily as hard on the Islamic faith as van Gogh’s work. The documentary is ninety-five minutes of non-stop recapitulation of the history of the religion, its belief system and political intent narrated by well-known scholars and critics Robert Spencer…Serge Trifkovic and Bat Ye’or. I have read all these people exept Trifkovic and respect them all. Speaking one after another as talking heads on the film (it’s that kind of old-fashioned documentary) they raise the question of our time that few dare speak, at least on any level of serious analysis. Is jihadism the real Islam or is there an actual moderate strain of the religion? Clearly, from its title, it’s obvious this film takes the former view and warns the West to heed the consequences of its dire conclusion.
Does it convince? Not entirely. But I think documentaries – particularly talking-head documentaries – are not ultimately a convincing form. They are too easily subject to manipulation by the filmmaker. The various writers who speak here are more interesting in their books, which develop their arguments at much greater length and depth. Still, this is a necessary film and I hope it finds distribution. Even though I hope its argument is at least partly wrong, I fear that it is not.
Roger is right. I am much more interesting in my books than in person. My friends tell me that all the time. Still, I’d like to see the film, and hope I will get a chance when it is showing, as it surely must, at the Empire Burlesque in downtown Secure Undisclosed Locationville.