Spielberg's Foreign Policy
"'Munich' is definitely the most European film I have ever made," Steven Spielberg told Germany"s Spiegel Online this week. "I also think that 'Munich' will have an easier time here, that it will be understood more easily and better."
The director knows his audience, as international media reaction to the film shows. Savaged by conservative commentators in The Washington Post and New York Times, Spielberg's movie about the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games opened to positive reviews in Europe this week. Only in Israel is the film getting mostly negative reviews.
The Independent's Robert Fisk, a Middle East correspondent and longtime critic of Israel, says the film is "absolutely brilliant."
"Most people who see the film, especially outside the US, will wonder what the fuss is all about,"
wrote The Guardian's Jonathan Freedland in a piece picked up by South Africa's Mail and Guardian. "Far from viewing Munich as anti-Israel, they may well regard it as highly sympathetic."
The film shows that "Spielberg is on a journey mirroring that of the Jewish community which raised him. At first, he burned with the desire to be not a Jewish director, but an American one telling heartland stories of rogue sharks and cute extra-terrestrials," he writes.
"Then he came face to face with the Holocaust. In Schindler's List, Spielberg was enacting the same move US Jewry had made from the late 1960s onwards, placing the Nazi catastrophe close to the centre of American Jewish identity. That film closed on a note of classic Zionism: the monochrome of murderous Europe giving way to the colour of redemptive, rescuing Israel."
"In Munich, Spielberg has taken a further step. He still loves Israel, he still longs for its survival and well-being, but now he is paying attention to the moral costs. The impact is not so much on the Palestinians, but on the Jewish soul. In this, too, Spielberg is in step with a nagging, if only rarely and reluctantly voiced, sentiment in the Jewish diaspora," Freedland says.
In an interview with The Guardian, Spielberg rejected criticism that he was too sympathetic to Palestinian character.
"'I find it kind of astonishing that people who don't like this movie are saying that I'm trying to humanise terrorists as if it was ever acceptable for me to dehumanise anyone in any of my pictures. Some political critics would like to see these people dehumanised because when you take away someone's humanity you can do anything to them, you're not committing a crime because they're not human."
But some of the families of the slain Olympians don't care for Spielberg's distinction. The father of a weightlifter killed in Munich gave a critical interview to Arutz Sheva, a right-wing radio station.
Mimi Weinberg, widow of the wrestling coach killed in 1972, told Ynet News
in Israel that the movie "fails to discern between those who murder
innocent civilians in their sleep and those who hunt down the
murderers," she said. "With Jews like Spielberg and [screenwriter Tony] Kushner we don't need enemies."
Weinberg said she has seen the film twice but doesn't want people to see it -- even though her son appears in it. Guri Weinberg, an actor in Los Angeles, portrays his father. What he thinks of the film is unknown. His contract bars him commenting.
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