Rating (out of 5): **
It's difficult to take Yoav Shamir's Defamation in the manner it's intended. Shamir, an Israeli jew, attempts to piece together a light-hearted understanding of the virulent antisemitism his nation's culture, education and news reportage has inculcated their citizenry to believe is running rampant throughout the rest of the world. What he discovers is that many powerful people are applying the "anti-Semitic" label to things that are simply minor annoyances inevitable in heterogeneous societies or outright misguided paranoia. But even as he frames many of these ideas as being over-reaching, or worse yet, being purposely amped up by people who have a vested interest in keeping Jewish people rapt with terror, he sidesteps any discussion of what impact these actions might be having on the international community or Israel's long-term well-being.
As far as documentaries about lofty subject matter starring their directors go, Shamir is an appealing and thoughtful host. But the explosive nature of his premise is weighted down by his own unexplored uncertainty and the occasionally mean-spirited edit jobs of playing people's clumsy passion for cheap laughs. It's not that comedy can't (or hasn't) been used to demystify or take the temperature down on divisive issues, but real storytelling requires more than just charisma and access.
Read the rest of this review at Greencine.