Israeli filmmaker Naftaly Gliksberg debuted his most recent documentary, Look Into My Eyes, at New York’s Lincoln Center Monday night. It’s billed as his investigation into contemporary anti-Semitism: is it truly a pervasive global problem, or is it merely a buzzword used by the Israeli government and individual Jews to fend off criticism? But what the film reveals instead is only that Gliksburg—large and brash, and appearing in nearly every shot—is a real-life manifestation of Sascha Baron Cohen’s Borat. As Gliksberg travels from Poland to France to America to Germany, he harasses the men he interviews, flirts with the women, and gets inappropriately physical with both. Many of the interviewees aren’t likely to shed any light on covert anti-Semitism, as it turns out, because they’re self-proclaimed neo-Nazis. And most of the other subjects have no problem with Jews, and are somewhat offended that Gliksberg’s asking—sometimes, because they’re Jewish themselves. In the movie’s most uncomfortable scene, Gliksberg asks Elinor Tatum, the black and Jewish editor of New York’s Amsterdam News, “Which side is black and which side is Jewish?” In the face of such treatment, the actual anti-Semites come across as almost normal. When Gliksberg asks the leader of a far-right German nationalist party if skinheads are the work of the devil, Horst Mahler replies that they’d be better described as a youth movement. And the thing is, yes, they would.
After a screening, Gliksberg told me he was “a bit upset” with how the film had turned out. Rather than undercutting the notion that anti-Semitism is everywhere, he said, it suggests that alarmists are right to believe the world is out to get them. It’s a reasonable self-criticism of a highly unreasonable film.