Protocols of Zion

Per Shakespeare, some men have greatness thrust upon them, and Marc Levin thinks he's one of them. To hear the filmmaker tell it, when the Kennedy assassination occurred within days of his bar mitzvah, his fate was sealed: A documentary on conspiracy theories and Jews was in the stars for him.

Beginning with its re-debunking of a rumor that thousands of Jewish New Yorkers knew about 9/11 (and thus skipped work that day), Protocols is a highly unfocused film. Though its nominal structuring device is The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forged document from late-19th-centuryRussia that depicts Jews as worldwide conspirators, the movie is really just a meandering tour of contemporary anti-Semitism. The problem with such a vague premise is that anything can appear to be on the rise if you actively seek it out. To support his thesis, Levin spends too much time with Shaun Walker, the head of the "white power" group National Alliance, whom he keeps prodding for neo-Nazi sound bites. His visit with founder Frank Weltner, who deals in a similar brand of hate- mongering, is just as single-minded.

Levin takes a Michael Moore–ish approach, and it backfires: He's on camera way too much, he comes off as an egotistical windbag—and, unlike Moore, he doesn't have much of value to say. By the time he calls Larry David and director Rob Reiner for a "Jews in Hollywood" roundtable the night before The Passion of the Christ opens, Protocols is teetering between documentary and mockumentary. (NR)

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