Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Review: American Radical : The Trials of Norman Finkelstein

I went to the LA premiere of American Radical last Friday. Norman Finkelstein came to the event which was sponsored by LA Jews for Peace and took some Q&A from the audience after the film. The film chronicles Norman's academic and "radical" paths , it shows why and how he became obsessed with Palestine and where his passion and dedication came from. His mother's influence and the suffering of his parents under the Nazis are the prime motivators and the fuel that drives his engine, his mother had an exceptional effect on him and you can see that through out the film , Norman would get emotional every time he would talk about her.

The film is a combination of excerpts from his lectures at universities , interviews with friends and enemies (Chomsky and Dershowitz the most relevant once) as well as Norman himself talking about his life. We see his passion and dedication when you hear about his friends in the west bank talking about his visits to the occupied territories after the first intifada , the friendship he developed and those visits to the occupied territories and watching first hand the oppression and humiliation of the Palestinians on the hand of the Israelis gave him the objective lens to view the conflict and to understand the meaning of military occupation and oppression.

The most powerful moment for me was when he visited an elderly Palestinian women who was ill and in her 70s (living in filth and in utter despair in the camp) , when he asked her how old she was , she replied "12 , because since I left in 1948 I have not been living at all". The movie then tackles his tenure dilemma and how he was not granted tenure in two universities because of Zionist pressures on the schools. It shows the power of the Zionist groups and how much influence they have in America.

Despite the autobiographical nature of the film we do not see the other side of Norman Finkelstein , we see the scholar , the writer , the lecturer , but we never got to see the person. What is he like when he is not consumed with Palestine ? what does he do for fun ? Has his choices cost him more than just a tenure ? did he lose friendships , girlfriends over his views ? I wanted to see more of the personal non political side of him , not to humanize him more but to actually get to know him more because he is a fascinating figure. The film was entertaining and enlightening even for those who may not know about Palestine or disagree with Norman since his enemies are given plentyof time to state their case against him , but in the end fail to discredit his facts and resort to cheap character assassination.

The Film is playing in a limited engagement till the end of the week at Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly hills.

No comments: