Spiral” takes audiences to France and Israel to explore the recent dangerous spike in anti-Semitism in Europe. France is home to Europe’s largest Jewish population. This powerful, no-holds-barred documentary introduces its subject with onscreen texts that proclaim a “cycle of fear, hatred and violence” is responsible for 8,000 French Jews immigrating to Israel in 2015.

The Durans are one such family. The film’s director, Laura Fairrie, a British documentary filmmaker, shows the family packing to leave France for Israel. It will not be an easy transition for this family, yet their commitment to their new country is evident in a discussion they have with their oldest son. Newly settled in the country, he is about to embark on his compulsory service in the army. The young man has no qualms about joining the Israel Defense Forces. He asserts, “I’m not just protecting Israel; I’m protecting all Jews.”

Julian, a young Parisian lawyer, is committed to staying in France. We meet him in September 2015 as he prepares a case against a comedian known as Dieudonné, who claims that the Holocaust was exaggerated. While Dieudonné doesn’t engage in outright Holocaust denial, he argues that the Holocaust has “become an engine for profit.” His act includes a bit on what he calls “Holocaust porn,” with an actor onstage in ragged clothes depicting a Jew about to be deported to the camps.

Both Julian and Dieudonné are interviewed at length in the film. Julian talks about the Charlie Hebdo murders, as well as the attack on a kosher market in a Paris suburb. He describes these attacks on Jewish businesses in a matter-of-fact manner. One of the most heart-stopping moments in the film is when he asserts that a terrorist attack on children in Toulouse was the first time Jewish children had been murdered in France since World War II.

Fairrie also trains her lens on Nabil, a Muslim community activist in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles. Nabil is filmed driving along a wall, behind which he claims the Jews willingly segregate. François is an observantly traditional Jew who teaches in a girls’ yeshiva behind the wall. He engages his class in a discussion of the consequences of separating oneself from French society. He is also the interviewee who gives the film its title when he says: “The fracture is so big, it is like a spiral.”

The strength of “Spiral” is contained in small, significant moments, such as when a British Jewish settler proclaims that Judea and Samaria were biblically promised to the Jewish people. Another moment is when the Duran family patriarch realizes that his children will always be more French than Israeli. And one of the most striking scenes in this accomplished documentary is when Julian is in a Paris park with his wife and newborn son and declares that France will always be his home.


“The Oslo Diaries”
“The Oslo Diaries”

In 1993 Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat shook hands on an agreement that proffered a way for Israelis and Palestinians to live together in peace. The peace agreement, called the Oslo Accords after the place where the negotiations were, is getting a retrospective treatment 25 years later in a new Israeli documentary, “The Oslo Diaries.” The film premiered at Sundance and revisits the time in the 1990s when Mideast peace was tantalizingly close at hand. In some ways, the film is a sentimental look back at what could have been for Israel and Palestine. In this anniversary time period, the topic is still timely. Last year the historical negotiations were dramatized in the Tony award-winning play “Oslo.”

With its extensive footage from that time period, “The Oslo Diaries” is an emotional treatment of its subject matter. The film also includes re-enactments of the meetings in Oslo. Actors who look remarkably like their real-life counterparts impersonate the Israelis and Palestinians who participated in negotiating the accords. While that fictionalizing approach gives the documentary certain energy, it also adds a modicum of confusion. What works more effectively is the way the film is threaded with voiceovers and diary excerpts from the actual players involved in the peace negotiations.

However, what emerges is that both Israelis and Palestinians must live with the fact that the Accords have come to represent a missed opportunity. Filmmakers Mor Loushy and Daniel Sivan include newsreel footage of upsetting moments, like the one in the Knesset when Rabin was shouted down for his attempts to make peace. There is also the intense rally in which Benjamin Netanyahu did not stop demonstrators from screaming, “Death to Rabin.” Then there is, of course, the footage of the peace rally in which Rabin was assassinated. Minutes before his death, he publicly sang a song for peace with his friend and lieutenant Shimon Peres.

Most notable in the film are the depictions of Abu Alaa, the PLO’s chief negotiator, and Shimon Peres. Peres, who died in 2016, gave one of his last interviews to the filmmakers. Loushy and Sivan amply demonstrate the humanity that emerged from the talks. Twenty-five years later, many of the surviving figures of the negotiations are close friends. The filmmakers successfully show the political contrast between Rabin and Netanyahu, who became Israel’s prime minister in 1996 by the slimmest of margins.

There’s a profound lesson to be learned here. One can only hope that Israelis and Arabs will again take up Yitzhak Rabin’s mantle of peace.

Find more information and showtimes here.