Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations Movie Poster Image
Uneven but undeniably powerful documentary about hate.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 84 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

While the movie isn't able to offer solutions or ways to move forward, it does at least identify the problem of anti-Semitism and the ways it spreads. It should give parents and older kids plenty to discuss.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Some of the interviewees are important public figures (Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, etc.); it's up to individual viewers to decide whether they're worthy role models.

Violence

Upsetting recordings of 911 calls that describe shootings at synagogues. Mentions of people killed. Depictions of hate, discrimination, etc.

Sex
Language

Infrequent use of words including "f--king," "s--t," "bitch," "whore," and "bastard."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations is a documentary about anti-Semitism and the ways it has spread into politics and power -- and resulted in violence -- in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Hungary. It's a bit uneven and lacks a strong conclusion, but it has plenty of powerful, thoughtful content and important information. Expect to hear unsettling recordings of 911 calls reporting mass shootings at American synagogues. There's also talk about death and general depictions and descriptions of hate, bigotry, and discrimination. Infrequent language includes single uses of "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "bastard," and "whore."

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What's the story?

In VIRAL: ANTISEMITISM IN FOUR MUTATIONS, director Andrew Goldberg takes a hard look at the drastic increase of anti-Semitism in the world, as well as the history of anti-Semitism and the insidious ways in which it spreads. He looks at four countries in four segments. In the United States, shootings in synagogues are on the rise thanks to attitudes that feel enabled by the nation's leadership. In Hungary, extreme right-wing Prime Minster Viktor Orbán paints himself as a hero who's working against the supposed evildoings of Hungarian-born American Jew George Soros. In the United Kingdom, the left-wing Labour Party surprisingly finds itself infiltrated by anti-Semites. And in France, Islamic radicalism is a threat. Goldberg discovers not only that anti-Semitism is spread through hate and fear, but also that it can be spread through ignorance. Ultimately, the movie serves as a warning that if this invasive intolerance isn't addressed, it could easily spread to any other kind of group that's perceived as different.

Is it any good?

It could have dug deeper, but this documentary is nonetheless an important attempt at addressing anti-Semitism logically and without anger -- though a certain painful dismay still comes through. Goldberg begins Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations with the thesis that anti-Semitism has been growing worse lately, and he provides a little history about discrimination against Jews, showing exaggerated drawings and other propaganda. The movie is clear that, while some people truly hate and fear Jews, others are quick to take advantage of that hate and fear, feeding off of it to gain power. (An interview with a former recruiter for a white supremacist group actually describes the group's horrifying techniques.)

The film includes some amazingly intimate, Michael Moore-like interviews, such as with an openly racist North Carolina political hopeful or with a Hungarian holocaust survivor who shares a bit of Orbán propaganda. In more traditional talking-head interviews, former U.S. president Bill Clinton offers thought-provoking insights, and it's hard not to be moved by the stories of some of the Jewish interviewees, who express disbelief and heartbreak. Unfortunately, Viral lacks a strong conclusion, other than the fact that this is all really awful. Nevertheless, it's a film that should be seen, even if those who need it most likely won't bother.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations. Are the descriptions of violent events heard in the 911 calls disturbing or upsetting? How does the impact of that compare to the impact of violence you actually see?

  • Have you ever experienced anti-Semitism or any other kind of discrimination? How did you react to it?

  • What does President Clinton mean when he says that certain leaders got people to "stop thinking and start blaming"? Why is it tempting to blame our problems and deficiencies on others?

  • Does the film offer any solutions for the problems it chronicles? Can you think of any ways to combat anti-Semitism and discrimination? What role does technology play in spreading ideas, both for better and for worse?

Movie details

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