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Film examines rising, worsening global anti-Semitism

Andrew Goldberg

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Mass murders, vandalism, social media abuse, propaganda, assault.

Anti-Semitism in the U.S. and Europe is rising and worsening in ways not seen since the 1930s.

Like a virus, it mutates and evolves across cultures, borders and ideologies, making it all but impossible to stop.

This is exactly why filmmaker Andrew Goldberg took on the hot topic in the film, “Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations.”

“I started it right after the election and worked on it for three years,” Goldberg says during a recent interview. “It was nonstop and exhausting. The story is changing every day and there is always another piece of bad news. It was difficult to keep up with.”

PBS is stepping in and airing the film nationwide after the film’s theatrical run was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It will premiere at 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 26, on New Mexico PBS.

Goldberg and crew traveled around the world with production for the 90-minute film.

It examines the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and the rise of anti-Semitism on the far right. In Hungary, it looks at how Prime Minister Viktor Orbán launched a massive campaign reminiscent of Nazi propaganda against Jewish billionaire George Soros.

In England, members of the traditionally anti-racist, far-left Labour party conflate Israel and Jews with anti-Semitic vitriol, causing tremendous pain for the Jewish community.

And in France, the film illuminates the seemingly endless wave of violence against Jews by Islamists and radicals.

Valerie Braham, widow of Phillipe Braham, killed at the HyperCacher Shooting, Paris, in a scene from “Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations.” (Courtesy of Viral: Antisemitism In Four Mutations)

In fact, the filmmakers were one of the only productions allowed to film in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh after the shootings in 2018.

“Pittsburgh happened and that came out of nowhere,” Goldberg says. “That would slow our production down because we wanted to tell a complete story.”

The film features interviews with Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Deborah Lipstadt to victims of terror, experts and anti-Semites themselves.

It is narrated in part by Julianna Margulies.

Goldberg says because anti-Semitism continues to rear its head around the world, an entirely different film could be made today.

Through all of the interviews, Goldberg held onto his journalistic values and stayed neutral.

“Everybody that we talked to, they are trying to get you to see their point of view,” he says. “People did get aggressive in this way.”

Goldberg says the increasing bigotry and violence within each of these four countries paints a terrifying portrait of how global hatred disseminates and harms.

Jean-Luc Slakmon in defense class, survivor of HyperCacher Shooting, Paris, in a scene from “Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations.”

Activist Maajid Nawaz says in the film, “If we don’t draw a red line in the sand when it comes to anti-Semitism, Muslims will be next, gays will be next and everyone else who is deemed a minority will be next.”

Goldberg hopes the film will open up minds and keep the narrative moving forward.

“There’s been very strong voices that have come from previous situations,” Goldberg says. “When you don’t see an administration stand up, it’s seen as a form of permission. America has a long history of public voice making change. That voice should never be silent.”

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