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Review: Documentary ‘Spiral’ takes an uninspired look at growing anti-Semitism in France and Israel

FRANCOIS, the Teacher. Lives in the Jewish section of Sarcelles, a suburb of Paris, teaches at a Jew
Francois, who lives in the Jewish section of Sarcelles, a suburb of Paris, and teaches at a Jewish private school, in the documentary “Spiral.”
(Cohen Media Group)

The startling spike in anti-Semitism over the last two decades is certainly a vast and vital topic for documentary exploration, but director Laura Fairrie’s “Spiral” proves a largely underwhelming look at an overwhelming problem.

Fairrie takes a decidedly observational approach as she interweaves profiles of a diverse array of Jews and Muslims — in both France and Israel — who offer a variety of views on anti-Semitism and racism as well as on fear and fear-mongering.

Those featured include a French Jewish family that moves to Israel to escape its native land’s growing intolerance, a teacher at a Jewish private school in suburban Paris, a young Jewish family living in a West Bank Israeli settlement, the mayor of a Palestinian town, a French comedian of African descent who’s notorious for mocking the Holocaust and a Jewish lawyer co-prosecuting the comic for hate speech offenses.

Fairrie’s subjects provide some valuable personal insights and opinions. Important questions are raised — if not necessarily answered — and several alarming examples of anti-Semitism are also on display.

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Still, this loosely organized, often sluggish film never effectively “spirals” into the fully wrenching and eye-opening treatise its disturbingly complex topic demands. Context and history are also not a priority.

The filmmaker has stated that she aimed for “psychological thriller” more than “current affairs documentary.” A bit more of the latter wouldn’t have hurt.

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‘Spiral’

In English, French, Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles

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Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 18 minutes

Playing: Starts Jun 22, Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills

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