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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Is Ed Zwick's 'Defiance' anti-Israel?

I've never been a big fan of Ed Zwick's movies and the feeling is mutual--he's not a big fan of my writing. But I feel compelled to stick up for Zwick, whose new film, "Defiance," about a group of tough Jews during World War II who fought back against the Nazis, opens wide this weekend. For some bizarre reason, someone--either the knuckleheads at Paramount Vantage, the studio releasing the film, or Zwick's personal publicist--allowed him to do an interview with Debbie Schlussel, a maniacal right-wing columnist/blogger/anti-Islamic crusader who is a star in the Rush Limbaugh/Fox News firmament, but a person who clearly loathes liberal Hollywood and all the pop culture it produces.

I'm not talking quibbling. I'm talking hating. In her review of "Notorious," the new film about rap icon Christopher (Biggie Smalls) Wallace--a.k.a. the Notorious B.I.G., Schlussel wrote: "The best part of 'Notorious,' the movie that whitewashes and glorifies this sleazebag, was when Wallace was shot and killed. 'Just die already,' I thought in the critics screening I attended."

Apparently accustomed to missing the point of every movie she writes about, she quickly tossed off an accolade for "Defiance," acknowledging that it was a "great movie," before getting to her real agenda--bashing Zwick for all sorts of ideological offenses, even going so far as to bludgeoning his 1998 film, "The Siege," which she seems to believe was somehow pro-Muslim. Schlussel led off the piece with the Ann Coulter-ish boast: "As I always say, Hollywood loves the dead Jews, but they hate the live ones. Hollywood loves the Holocaust, but hates Israel."

To give you a little flavor of the hysterical tone of the attack, check out this Schlussel-esque observation:

"I asked [Zwick] why Hollywood is so anti-Israel and when would he come full circle and make a movie that shows the Jews who are now the victims of the new Nazis in the Middle East, in Israel. Edward Zwick's squirming was so loud, I felt like I was watching worms crawl through the phone."

To his credit, Zwick responded that he didn't realize Hollywood had made any anti-Israel movies (and if Schlussel  has any evidence, she didn't present it). He added, quite rightly I think, that when it came to the horrific enmity in the Middle East, "it's so full of moral complexity that I'm not sure I could address it in a two-hour movie." He also said he was loath to "analogize" between the "Defiance" story and the contemporary Middle East situation, explaining that when you talk about the Middle East today, "you're not talking about genocide."

This only further infuriated Schlussel, who described Zwick's perfectly lucid response as "pyscho-babble gobbledygookish squirming." Noting that "Defiance" opens in Israel next week, Schlussel ended by saying "Let's hope the Israeli soldiers connect the dots that Edward Zwick--and the rest of Hollywood--won't. They are fighting the same Nazis, the same evil the [heroes of "Defiance"] fought."

First conservatives bashed Hollywood for not making movies about the threat of terrorism, now they are complaining that it's not good enough to celebrate Jews in history--Hollywood must honor today's stalwart Israelis too. For all our past disagreements, Zwick couldn't be more correct on this count. Filmmakers have every right to see the world as a place teeming with moral complexity, and their films have every right to reflect it. It's one reason why so few conservatives ever make it as serious filmmakers--their world, the world of stark good and evil, is a convenient ideological construct that has very little to do with the world of today.

 
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As a new filmmaker working on a Holocaust feature film, I can tell you it's a challenging enough project without throwing in the Israel equation! Thanks for cutting Zwick some slack.

The Middle East "conflict" is all about genocide...against the Palestinians. The silence of Hollywood on that makes them a most pro-Israel entity. When Hollywood "artists" had to take out full adverts in industry publications painstakingly explaining their support of Israel during its invasion of Lebanon in 07 (was it?), it speaks volumes. Darfur is not a genocide, but it's more convenient to pick on a 3rd world African country which is already conveniently ostracized by one's gov't, than to pick on the monster that is Israel.

These right wing nut jobs need to get out a little more to read beyond their anti-Palestinian propaganda.

In general, writing that begins with "I" does not deserve fans.

i think defiance is the most zionist movie without zion that i've seen along time. shlussel is wrong. i've never felt so proud to see such a pro jewish bravery and brotherhood like this movie (spoiler:ehid-sword-bar kochva apear-etc. as asaell told thefighters)

it was much more pro jews that fight for their own than any israeli film i've seen.

i think that it's a pitty that there aren't pro israeli film like that more. to fight for your own people this is zionism, and that's what we did the last several weeks.

tuvia bielsky and zush are my heroes. by the way zwik forgot to mention that tuvia did aliiya to israel and then left to the u.s

i think munich was the example of a film about israel with a sense of self guilt that the jews like.
that's why spilberg got criticized in israel. it was a very bad film.

i think defiance is the most zionist movie without zion that i've seen along time. shlussel is wrong. i've never felt so proud to see such a pro jewish bravery and brotherhood like this movie (spoiler:ehid-sword-bar kochva apear-etc. as asaell told thefighters)

it was much more pro jews that fight for their own than any israeli film i've seen.

i think that it's a pitty that there aren't pro israeli film like that more. to fight for your own people this is zionism, and that's what we did the last several weeks.

tuvia bielsky and zush are my heroes. by the way zwik forgot to mention that tuvia did aliiya to israel and then left to the u.s

i think munich was the example of a film about israel with a sense of self guilt that the jews like.
that's why spilberg got criticized in israel. it was a very bad film.

It's so confusing,

Good this is brouth up. For all of us that love movies and don't like the war. I have mixed feelings: I love all movies from Israel and Hollywood Jews team oriented films and in the other hand 1,300 palestinians mostly women and children were killed this past couple of weeks. So, my moral values angains all kind of genosaide (what about the Armenian, the Aztec, the native Americans genozide) and also my affection for films such as Defiance, A Waltz with Bashir, Adam Resurrected, The Reader. What we can do as an audience or Academy members??? Put our money paying to see those movies and vote to give them all kind of awards and recognize the achivements, or ignore them. For instance: Waltz with Bashir, won the Golden Glove, but the animation it's so disturbing and violent that I coudn't take it any more. Now in the foreign category for the Oscars, if it wins, not a surprise, last year The Counterfeiters was the same thing, diffentent war, same players. What about The lives of others, and on an on...

Geo Bandera is incorrect in linking the Ukrainian partisans to the Jewish partisans depicted in "Defiance. The guerilla movement in Belorussia was started by cut off Red Army soldiers that escaped from the massive pocket formed around Bialystok-Minsk in June-July 1941 at the start of Barbarossa. These troops congealed in the massive thick forests of Bialowezia and Nalibocki and formed the first of the partisan brigades. The brigades were supported by arms air dropped to them and had links with the main Red Army and were under the control of commissars selected by Beria for the task. After the winter 1942 offensive these brigades had supply routes to the main frontline between Nevel, Veliki Luki and Vitebsk which the Germans were never able to completely sever.The Bielski brothers operated in the same area.

The story of the UPA Bandera movement, caught between the Germans and the Soviets and especially its role in the death of Marshal Vatutin in April 1944 would make an excellent story to film but it has nothing to do with the partisan movement in Belorusssia or the Bielski brothers

Go to www.jewishpartisans.org/defiance for free educator materials about the Bielskis as well as a guide on Ethics and Defiance. There are also profiles and short films about former Bielski partisans.

I saw Defiance and thought it was excellent. As some who has read a lot of history, I thought it presented WWII Eastern Front Russia and the holocaust accurately. Its internal accuracy even seemed to extend to the arms used in film.

As a Republican, I detected less politics than in Defiance than most movies made these days or even in reviews like this.

I just saw the movie and agree with the previous writer gb, that it is an excellent movie, truthful and powerfully well portrayed by Craig, Schreiber, and all the other actors. It is history and anyone who knows Jewish history of this period will appreciate this excellent film.

 
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