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.
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.
In English, French, Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 18 minutes
Playing: Starts Jun 22, Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills