KIKE LIKE ME-finding the jewish identity in the 21st century


Real Jews

Originally uploaded by danny.hammontree

missed the beginning of this doco, was only able to catch the bit where he was in france and a few muslim kids were bagging him because he was a jew right up to him not wanting to enter the gas chambers in auschwitz and it was a really interesting intake of whats it like being a jew in these modern times…

its like similar to me being a hijabi muslim…there are stigmas, stereotypes, certains thinkings, labels to me whenever someone sees me and yet i’m just another normal but spiritual aussie chick within and someone people, who especially aren’t defined by a certain group are really cashing in on just what some people are…just like rupert murdoch is with his islamophobia rein in all his media chains, fox news in particular…

if i wasn’t wearing my hijab, would you even know who i am just by looking at me?

anyways here’s the trailer…

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/17/movies/17docu.html

Vexing Questions of Jewish Identity

By FELICIA R. LEE
Published: December 17, 2007

“Are you Jewish?” is a question often lobbed at Jamie Kastner, a Toronto filmmaker and writer. Why do you want to know?, he asks in a film that flings the question back as he moves around the globe — New York, London, Jerusalem, Paris, Berlin — to engage a widely varied cast of characters about the meanings of Jewishness. With the deliberately provocative and potentially offensive title “Kike Like Me,” his documentary is to have its television premiere in this country Monday night at 10 on the Sundance Channel.

The film, which Mr. Kastner wrote, directed and produced, is what he calls “a black comic road movie about identity.” On that road the curly-haired, 35-year-old Mr. Kastner meets friendly Lubavitcher Jews in Brooklyn, who beam as he dons tefillin, boxes containing Scriptural passages, as well as young Arabs in the diverse Paris suburb of Sarcelles who say that if he is a Jew “we don’t like you.” Mr. Kastner asks the young men to consider him as an individual, but they resort to a series of insults.

“It would be a good time to leave Sarcelles before I get a second circumcision,” Mr. Kastner says in one of his frequently sarcastic voice-overs, leaving what had devolved into a shouting match on a sidewalk.

Mr. Kastner also interviews the conservative pundit Patrick J. Buchanan (who abruptly ends the meeting) about his views on Jewish neo-conservatives and their ties to Israel. In Israel he chats with A. B. Yehoshua, the novelist and playwright, who rhapsodizes about life there, prompting this voice-over from Mr. Kastner: “I don’t know. I kind of like life in the Diaspora.”

His tone darkens as the road trip ends at the concentration camp museum at Auschwitz. Mr. Kastner wonders if the museum bar serves Manischewitz wine and angrily mutters, “It’s strange to have it preserved here like some kind of movie set for our benefit,” observing the tourists eating as they wander among the death ovens.

There is more to Mr. Kastner’s filmed ramble than meets the eye, though, enough to stir up clouds of controversy before it ever reached television screens in this country. Although he tells everyone on the road that he is a Jew, he never says whether he really is Jewish.

If that conceit is not enough, there’s the film’s title, which some people have found objectionable. Mr. Kastner explains it as a play on “Black Like Me,” the 1961 book by John Howard Griffin about a white man who disguises himself as black to examine racism. He also calls it an “ironic wink” at how some elements in Jewish pop culture have appropriated slurs as well as a fair representation of offensive views that are still current. Non-Jews seemed more uncomfortable with the title than Jews, he said.

“I’ve always seen this not as a film for Jews particularly or about Jews but about identity, about what it means to be an outsider,” Mr. Kastner said in a recent phone interview. “There are certain issues for those who are perceived as other. One tries to gauge where the asker if coming from.”
He said of questions about his religion: “Do you want to blame me for Israel? Do you want to set me up with your daughter? So why do you want to know? What is it in yourself, audience, that you are prejudging?”

At its premiere in April at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival in Toronto, the film became the best-attended and one of the most talked about, said Sean Farnel, the festival programming director. It was contentious and divisive, Mr. Farnel said, with the title a starting point for a vigorous debate that drew in the audience, industry insiders and festival programmers.

A long interview with Mr. Kastner in The Jerusalem Report last month concluded that “an informal poll revealed that Jews viewing the film seem to have it figured out,” a reference to Mr. Kastner’s religion.

For “Like Me,” Mr. Kastner included scenes from the 1947 film “Gentleman’s Agreement,” in which Gregory Peck plays a Gentile journalist who impersonates a Jew for an article on anti-Semitism. Unlike Mr. Peck’s character, Mr. Kastner said his concept stemmed from being continually asked if he was Jewish because of his looks or his name.

“What kind of time is this to answer that question?” Mr. Kastner says in the film, his first feature-length documentary. He teases the audience with hints about his identity: his circumcision, his attendance at Catholic boarding school, a photograph of his blond mother and one of his dark-haired bride on their wedding day.

Mr. Kastner, who has also worked as a newspaper reporter, a television producer and a playwright and director, has steadfastly refused publicly to exit the religion closet. “The people close to me understand what I am doing,” he said, although one Jewish friend, who objected to his tone at Auschwitz, said the film had made it difficult to discern whether he was anti-Semitic.

His films include “Free Trade Is Killing My Mother,” a documentary about globalization, and “Djangomania!” about the fans of the jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. “Like Me” was seen in June on the BBC’s “Storyville” series and has been shown in several film festivals, including Jewish ones in Toronto and Washington. Ten broadcasters around the world, including those in the Netherlands, Finland and Australia, snapped it up. Only CHUM Ltd., based in Toronto, changed the title, settling on “Jew Like Me.”

No one seemed bothered by the title at the Washington Jewish Film Festival, said its director, Joshua Ford. “I think he’s looking to see where there’s anti-Semitism still,” Mr. Ford said. Mr. Kastner shows that to be a Jew still matters in the 21st century, he added, even though “sometimes his glibness gets in the way” of making that point.

Mr. Kastner, however, was not so glib when asked what his road trip revealed.

“The conclusion, such as it is, is depressing, really,” he said. “You’re pinned down potentially to what your worst enemy says you are, given the current state of identity. You become heir to the Auschwitz nightmare or the kid on the street who says ‘dirty Jew.’”

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~ by nursheikha on July 28, 2009.

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