Review: ‘Being Jewish in France’

Ambitious three-hour-plus documentary "Being Jewish in France" traces Jews' stormy history in the nation.

Ambitious three-hour-plus documentary “Being Jewish in France” traces Jews’ stormy history in the nation, from their warm acceptance as citizens under Napoleon to their current status as quasi-pariahs. Made for French TV, the film mainly concerns the Holocaust and the rampant revisionism that succeeded it. Although certain assumptions will puzzle American auds, it is unlikely that, despite the docu’s copious archival riches and dramatic revelations, many non-Jewish viewers will flock to such a detailed and Gallo-specific chronicle. Docu opens May 13 at Gotham’s Walter Reade.

Aptly named helmer Yves Jeuland links the anti-Semitism surrounding the trumped-up treason conviction of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus to France’s pro-Nazi Vichy government some 40 years later. Docu excels in examining the popularity of Vichy leader Marechal Petain and the proactive role of French police in rounding up Jews for deportation, an enthusiasm matched by the fervor with which that role was later denied (even forcing director Alain Resnais to excise a policeman from his concentration camp study, “Night and Fog”). But the docu walks on eggshells once Israel enters the picture, sidestepping discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict except as a nettlesome complication to Jewish identity.

Being Jewish in France



A KUIV production with the participation of France 3, France 5, Planete, Forum des Images. Produced by Michel Rotman, Marie Helene Ranc. Directed, written by Yves Jeuland.


Camera (color HD, B&W, archival), Jerome Mignard; editor, Sylvie Bourget; music, Eric Slabiak. Original title: Comme Un Juif en France. Reviewed on DVD, New York, May 9, 2009. Running time: 185 MIN.


Robert Badinter, Elie Barnavi, Jean Benguigui, Paul Bernard, Rachel Cohen, Daniel Farhi, Bruno Fiszon, Raphael Drai. Narrator: Mathieu Amalric.
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