Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Is this film anti-Semitic?

I received the following email earlier this week.

To Arnon Shorr:

We have seen your movie “A Modest Suggestion”. You asked us to comment on the movie. Our comments are as follows:
• I ordered the DVD because we believed in you and we wanted you to be honored with work that you created.
• The title of the movie is very deceiving.
• Had we known what it was about, we would have never purchased the movie.
• Now that we have seen the movie, we need to let you know our feelings about it.
o We believe the movie is very disturbing and anti Semitic.
o It gives very unsafe ideas to the world.
o How could any Jew possibly be associated with degrading the Jews as shown in the movie?
o How could any Jew make a movie about killing Jews?
o It appears in the movie that killing Jews was OK.
o This is very dangerous for Jews all over the world.
o As a holocaust survivor watching this movie, it was extremely upsetting.
o It has only been about 70 years since Hitler got the very same idea, Kill the Jews.
o We are very upset and concerned that all of the anti Semitics who watch this film will be encouraged to do what was shown in the film.
o The killer did not show remorse and the other three morons went along with him, making it appear that it was OK to kill Jews.
• Are these the ideas that you wanted to give to the world?
• What kind of lesson were you teaching the world?

On behalf of all of the Jews in the world, we strongly urge you to withdraw the film from circulation immediately.

In view of our comments above, we chose not to comment on the quality of the director’s and the producer’s work.

We hope you seriously consider the comments above and remove the film from circulation.



In my response, I explained the film's intended purpose. It is a satire, meant to lampoon anti-Semites by exposing the ridiculous illogic at the foundation of anti-Semitism. It's not an uplifting story of redemption and peace. It's a dark exposee: anti-Semitism often triumphs, even though it has no basis in truth. We are not removing the film from circulation. I thanked them for their candid letter, and invited further feedback.

That said, I've lost a lot of sleep these past few nights, bothered by this email. Ultimately, the meaning of a film has nothing to do with the director's intentions. It's the audience that must decide. Is "A Modest Suggestion" an anti-Semitic manifesto, or a satire on anti-Semitism? I know what I intended, but I don't think that matters nearly as much as what you see, and as such, I'm eager to read your comments here.

-Arnon Z. Shorr
Director, "A Modest Suggestion"