Release: 2008-03-27 (On-line)
Director: Geert Wilders
Language: Dutch, English
And the LORD said: Let there be hooplah! And there was hooplah. Let there be hue and outcry! And there was hue and outcry. Let there be Talking heads spinning like Max Headroom on crack. And, lo, there was talk, talk, talk and rage, rage, rage. This is what Fitna caused even before it was released. This is apparently what it set out to cause. I am not saying that I disagree with all or part of the film's content. I'm not saying that I agree with any of it. There seem to be hundreds of thousands already willing to do one or the other. When I viewed it on liveleak.com, over 2.5 million others had already done so. But let's talk about the film itself.
Fitna is a pure, unadulterated propaganda film. It's an unashamed alarmist appeal to emotion. It doesn't even pretend to employ rational arguments. More than anything else, it's a rallying cry for those who fear the impact of the spread of Islam in western societies. I'd say that it preaches to the choir but that would be me sticking my head in the sand. It has probably achieved its purpose and convinced more people of its claims.
The film opens with a verse from the Quran. This begins a theme in which a verse is shown and heard in Arabic with an English (or, I presume, Dutch, if you're watching the Dutch version) translation of the verse. The verse is presented on the left page of an open book. On the right page, footage is shown of various activities engaged in by Muslim fundamentalists. Between these presentations, full-screen footage is interpolated. This footage includes scenes involving death and mayhem like scenes from the aftermath of the Madrid bombings, various forms of gory executions, Muslim leaders proclaiming "death to the infidels" and everything else that most media outlets would only talk about but not show. The narrative consists entirely of subtitles.
The film basically consists of two parts: first it presents the general evil of Islam; then it focuses on the situation in the Netherlands. The first part consists mostly of the aforementioned recitals from the Quran and third-party footage of the various manifestations of the threat. The World Trade Center, moderate luminaries like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad congenially speaking of world domination, phone calls from the scene of terrorist attacks... pretty much everything that can put you into a fertile mindset of fear. The second part makes heavy use of Dutch newspaper clippings. Theo van Gogh is cited more than once. The rest involves mostly statements from his unrepentant killer (as we know, convicted assassins are very representative of Islam, right?), and subjects such as public statements made by some rather radical imams, Salman Rushdie's case, and the likes.
All this serves to demonise Islam. All this has been done before. Take the little girl who says that she's three and a half, and that Jews are "apes and pigs" because "Allah says so." Now tell me that, if you look far enough, you won't find a child in the United States that's been taught to say the same about "niggers," a kid in the UK say the same about "pakis," a Croatian kid who will say the same about Serbs, a Hutu kid say it about Tutsis... you get the idea. If Borat could find grown men who voice their opinions in that way, you and I can find a gullible (that is, every) three-year-old who will do so. I say that little girl wouldn't know a "Jew" if one bit her in the behind.
While you're at it, take Deuteronomy and some of Paul's epistles, make a collage of the juicy bits, and see if you can't make Christianity look just as nutty. Take a bunch of clips from Aryan Nation and Ku Klux Klan rallies, add a touch of Le Pen and the odd neo-Nazi from Leipzig. Mix, retouch, edit. Hell, add a clip of the reverend Fred Phelps (may he rest gaily) in action and your work is done. You can then just as easily present western culture as being every bit as depraved and hateful as the anti-Israel protesters with the "God Bless Hitler" placard. Having mentioned Hitler (and trying to skirt the fringes of Godwin's Law), Wilders's film has a lot more in common with National Socialist propaganda than the on-screen Muslim fanatics do. Except with a lower budget, less class, and an inability to convince me that he didn't produce it during his lunch break at a coffee shop. Leni Riefenstahl he is not. Hell, he's not even Michael Moore. Moore might love being just as slanted as Wilders but at least he puts some effort into it. Wilders, as far as I can tell, contributed about 15 lines of Stalinesque slogans and sourced everything else from media outlets.
As a film, this production's quality is perhaps marginally better than whatever's trending on Youtube today. As a conversation piece, it's barely worth touching. As a provocative statement, it's disappointingly unoriginal. I won't say that it's a total waste of time because it is an accurate representation of the views of a portion of public opinion in the Western world that's large enough to be of consequence. As such it bears watching--but certainly not for its artistic merit or rational arguments.
It's not my intention to downplay the effectiveness of poorly produced propaganda. It's effective. It is my intention to evaluate Fitna as a film around whose release much was ado. Well, on a technical, intellectual, and artistic level, much was ado about nothing.
Film critic style rating, stars'n' all: + (0.5/5)