Movie review: 'Ever Again'

2½ stars (out of four)

In the final moments of World War II and on the eve of his own death, Adolf Hitler predicted a rebirth of the anti-Semitism that defined his reign of terror. Some, including the filmmakers behind "Ever Again," believe that rebirth is well under way in today's Europe, fueled by a rising resentment of Israel and by two divergent groups with a common, profound hatred of Jews.

The immodestly subtitled "Ever Again" is the latest offering from Moriah Films, the production arm of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Los Angeles-based Jewish human rights organization. Moriah is an established heavyweight in the documentary feature field, having won Oscars for 1980's "Genocide" and 1997's "The Long Way Home." And while "Ever Again" isn't Oscar caliber, it's affecting nonetheless. Narrated by Kevin Costner (whose thin, reedy voice lacks the authority the subject deserves), the film conducts an impressively thorough examination of the anti-Semitic undercurrents infecting Europe's governments and traces the parallel paths of the continent's most ruthlessly anti-Semitic populations: fundamentalist Muslims and neo-Nazis.

"Ever Again" notes that such tensions are on the rise across Europe, and especially in France, Germany and the United Kingdom, where Muslim fundamentalist leaders blame every societal ill on the Jews. Unsurprisingly, the filmmakers contend, many of Europe's Muslim extremists are ardent Holocaust deniers and/or big fans of Hitler. Meanwhile, Germany's neo-Nazis are gaining strength through the increasingly popular National Democratic Party and recasting the Holocaust as an anti-German campaign in which "pure" Germans were the true victims.

The filmmakers are careful to emphasize that fundamentalist Muslims and neo-Nazis are only Europe's loudest and brashest anti-Semites. In 2003, Europeans were asked: Which country poses the biggest threat to world peace? Sixty percent of respondents named Israel. In the film's most intellectually compelling sequences, rabbis, journalists, politicians and Harvard professor/attorney Alan Dershowitz opine on the role of semantics in the definition of racism or anti-Semitism and discuss the theory that many European anti-Semites have successfully couched their prejudices in the political correctness of left-wing academia. To wit: members of Europe's intellectual elite -- most notably, Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago and Irish poet Tom Paulin -- defend their anti-Israel positions as pro-Palestinian and therefore, in the accepted currency of oppression, anti-racist.

"Ever Again" isn't a subtle film, but then it never pretends to be. More lecture than conversation, it's not designed to delicately challenge opposing viewpoints. And thanks to generally uninspired camera work and inelegant editing, there's not much in terms of aesthetic payoff, either. What makes this movie worth seeing, is, ironically, exactly what may deter potential audiences: It's a rigorous, almost academic examination of a venomous hatred rooted in the past, primed to poison the future.


'Ever Again'

Directed by Richard Trank; screenplay by Trank; photographed by Jeffrey Victor; edited by Rebecca Harrell; music by Lee Holdridge; produced by Rabbi Marvin Hier and Trank. A Moriah Films release; opens Friday at Landmark's Renaissance Place Cinema. Running time: 1:13. No MPAA rating.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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