‘Spiral’ sheds light on European anti-Semitism

Breaking down a grand scale of European anti-Semitism into personal anecdotes of people who have fled their communities, director Laura Fairrie uses Spiral to document intolerant and fearful attitudes towards Jews. Although the film could be difficult to fully comprehend for some viewers, this timely look at the Israel/Palestine conflict is expertly constructed. (BKP: 4.5/5)

Review by Managing Editor Brigid K. Presecky

“We can’t consider the blood of others as different to ours,” a narration echoes to the audience in the closing scenes of Spiral. That’s the hopeful lesson viewers are left with after a 79-minute documentary filled with footage of painful controversy and horrific terrorism.

After a series of anti-Semitic crimes like the 2012 Toulouse school shootings and the Sarcelles riots in 2014, former broadcast journalist Fairrie delves into systemic issue of assaults against Jews in present-day France. Some fled, some remained, and all dealt with the effects of hate in their own communities. 

Instead of casting a wide net on the controversy, Fairrie instead focuses her feature documentary on individual stories of people who have felt so isolated in their own communities that they were compelled to relocate to a new home. The Duran family, specifically, is a family of Parisian Jews who were forced to leave France after their own neighbors created a community of hostility and isolation. Learning about their personal struggles, along with other subjects like a prosecution lawyer and an Arab community leader, gives viewers a miniscule sense of how terrorism has affected nations as well as its toll on individual human beings.

Cinematically, the film beautifully (although maybe not the appropriate word) captures the grittiness of France and Israel full of petrified citizens who live in either isolation, terror, or a combination of both. Two years in the making, the sobering footage is an honest look at the state in which these people exist.

No doubt, Spiral will make American communities reflect on our own behavior and the degree to which we view politicians or how we project our own prejudicial beliefs into our communities. Without fully understanding what is happening in Europe or without the backstory of the Israel/Palestine conflict, Spiral can seem overwhelming, but when it focuses on individual stories – these emotional journeys are all the audience needs to know to understand how hatred can affect the human spirit.

Charlies Cohen, head of Cohen Media Group (which is distributing the film), hopes to share it with the Jewish community in New York City as well as the rest of the country. “We have partnered with groups such as the JCC of Manhattan and rely on the support of community leaders and rabbis to bring the film to their congregations,” Cohen told Deadline. “We have also made an effort to connect with museums, foundations, and other groups dedicated to education around the vital and timely topics of the film.”

Spiral will open in New York this weekend at the Quad Cinema and in Beverly Hills at the Laemmle Music Hall. Read FF2 Media’s interview with director Laura Fairrie HERE.

© Brigid K. Presecky (6/22/18) FF2 Media

Photo stills of Spiral courtesy of Passion Pictures & Cohen Media Group

Q: Does Spiral pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?

Unfortunately, no. The film is mostly centered on male subjects.

Tags: FF2 Media

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Brigid Presecky began her career in journalism at Chicago's Goodman Theatre. In 2008, she joined FF2 Media as a part-time film critic and multimedia editor. Receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Bradley University, she moved to Los Angeles where she worked in development, production and publicity for Berlanti Productions, Entertainment Tonight and Warner Bros. Studios, respectively. Returning to her journalistic roots in Chicago, she is now a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and certified Rotten Tomatoes Film Critic.
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