Film Review: Keep Quiet
KEEP QUIET (2016) DIRECTORS SAM BLAIR, JOSEPH MARTIN
By Belle McIntyre
This is a stunningly strange cautionary tale, almost a diagram of bigotry and hubris. It is a true story about the creation of a political activist, his meteoritic rise and
devastating fall within the political system. It then morphs into the three-year journey of atonement and rehabilitation. The focus is on Csanad Szegedi, the vice president of Jobbik, the far right extremist party of Hungary (2003 - 2012) and also a member of the European Parliament (2009 - 2014). Szegedi’s first political activity was as a founder of the Hungarian Guard, a now banned militia inspired by the Arrow Cross, a pro-Nazi organization complicit in the murder of thousands of Jews during WWII.
As such a high-ranking member and standard bearer of the Jobbik Party, Csanard is the embodiment of the party’s major tenets which are a virulent anti-Semiticsm and Holocaust denial. These beliefs are at the heart of Csanard’s very high-profile identity and he believes in them passionately. So when an opposition party member threatens to expose his Jewish background, he is completely blind-sided. Upon confronting his maternal grandmother who reveals her deeply buried past as an Auschwitz survivor, he learns that her coping mechanism was to deny her Judaism and raise her family as gentiles and never refer to the trauma to which she was subjected. He is stunned and deeply moved and asks her “Why did you not stop me?”
It is a supreme irony that, given his entire adult life and identity based on his politics, that after he is thrown out of the party and ostracized by all of his colleagues, he has little choice but to accept his true identity in an environment of heightened anti-Semitism which he helped to create. And here we have a case to be made for extremist behavior being an innate character trait. He does not simply acknowledge his Jewishness, he embarks on a mission of atonement and reparation. With some difficulty he finds a Rabbi willing to teach him all of the tenets of Judaism in order to be a good and deeply observant Jew. His immersion in his studies is extreme and heartfelt and includes the radical act of adult circumcision.
The case against keeping quiet is powerfully made.