Filmmaker Marc Levin's new documentary sets out to understand and challenge those who believe that the Jews were responsible for 9/11. From Blowback Productions. Opens October 21st in New York.
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What motivated you to film this documentary? What drove you to make this film?
When I was young and first got into film it was in the 60’s…European New Wave, Battle Algiers, Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, Kubrick, Medium Cool…it was a time where films seemed to be about how the world was changing and what was going on and that’s what lead me into filmmaking. Obviously the industry has grown, etc…
This was one of those situations where I was trying to make sense of 9/11 and what had happened, being somewhat surprised myself that I was hearing…I knew what the Protocols were…if anyone was going to tell me when I first read it was a young man in the 70’s that it would reappear in the year 2001 I would have said you’re out of your mind…and somehow be connected to world events.
So, I think it got me back to what got me into filmmaking in the first place. Something has changed in the world, where do I fit in? So it was going back to basics and fundamentals.
Can you talk about the experience of actually being in your film this time? When you first started shooting where you conscious of the camera? How did it affect your movie?
I always wondered how directors, you know like Woody Allen, could ever direct themselves or be in their own movies. And I would say that the part that was easier for me was…in my documentaries; I have always been engaged in dialogue but just not in the lens. And sometimes even in the lens but you know, editing it and whatever, so that part was easier for me to lose my self consciousness about ‘O.K., you’re on camera’.
The hard part…the editing room.
I got into filmmaking in the editing room. That’s how I started. I was a kid. I was a teenager on Give Me Shelter. I was an apprentice, I became an assistant, I became an editor. That was my way into eventually directing, writing, and producing. The editing room has always been the safe house for me. And, you know, it’s brutal. So to see your own mug there…it was impossible. It made the editing room, which is normally my favorite place to hide; alien. And I had to trust my editor when it comes to me; my instinct was to minimize me. But I had to kind of let go, and say, you make the call on some of the takes. That was the hardest thing, not having my editing room as a hiding place. For me I think this was my one and only movie like this. I hope to return to be able to hide behind the camera and be safe in the editing room.
You interviewed lots of different groups of people in this movie. With all of the interviews that you did, what were some of the challenges with performing those interviews?
I think the challenge was first that it not degenerate into a totally, you know, brawl or ah, screaming at each other. That it didn’t fall apart. Second, I think the biggest challenge was to have those engaged however extreme or alien their views or distasteful to me or how much I disagreed was to honestly want to find out where they were coming from. And not just turn them off, and communicate that, which is not a verbal. To let someone know that ‘listen I disagree with you and everything you are saying and ah, passionately, but I really am genuinely curious and beyond curious…was desperate to know how you could ever believe this. When people feel that, even if they know you disagree, there is a different tone to the conversation, versus, ‘you’ve got your position’, that’s more point counterpoint. To be able to try and walk a tight rope where, listen, I do care. I do care about where this comes from. I want to get in there. That’s real. I don’t buy any of this shit that your spitting, you know, that was a challenge. Absolutely.
What do you hope that audience members that see your film will take away from it? What do you hope that they learn?
I hope that audiences leave asking these questions to themselves and to their friends their neighbors, and what I mean is that…This isn’t a Jewish film, this is a film that is about…We live in a world today, take New York City, last weekend, right, the subways, you know, all of a sudden, alert, right?
There are fanatics of all faiths, not just Muslim. There are Jewish fanatics, Christian fanatics…they all believe the same thing. Hate can be Holy, and that violence can be sacred, and if you don’t agree with one of them, you are expendable. How do we, all of us who believe in the open, tolerant, multicultural society, how do we fight that? That’s the question. And it’s not over in Iraq, and Afghanistan, it’s right here, and it’s right in us. That’s the question I hope people answer, and I don’t have that answer. If people ask those questions, I think we’re on the right road.