Identity is a common topic in movies at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, from issues of assimilation and religious identity to gender and sexuality to discoveries buried under Holocaust-escaping secrets.
But few films deal with an identity crisis as bizarre as the true story of Csanád Szegedi, the central figure in the documentary “Keep Quiet.”
Szegedi was one of the leaders of Hungary’s rising far-right political party, Jobbik, and won a seat in the European Parliament. He reveled in Jobbik’s racism, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial — until, in a twist worthy of “The Twilight Zone,” a jealous man exposed a secret Szegedi didn’t even know he had.
His maternal grandmother was Jewish, making him halachically Jewish.
His fellow Jobbik leaders toy with the idea of exploiting Szegedi’s newfound ethnicity: “How can you say we’re anti-Semitic? One of our leaders is Jewish.” But it turns out that Jobbik members genuinely distrust Jews, and Szegedi finds himself spurned even as he rejects his longtime ideology of hatred.
What happens next is the focus of “Keep Quiet.” Is Szegedi sincere in his midlife rejection of fascism and embrace of Judaism, facilitated by a Chabad rabbi in Budapest? Is he just grabbing onto something to ease his fall from Jobbik grace? Can and should people who had been the object of his hatred now accept his fellowship?
Director Sam Blair doesn’t attempt to answer those questions. He simply presents Szegedi’s story and his repeated confrontations in travels to Jewish communities around the world. It is up to each viewer to decide whether it’s ever too late for a Jew to find forgiveness.