Themes and Key Words:
Society, History, Biography, Jewish stories
40′ | 52′ | 70′
The stunning accomplishments of the Jews raise a question no film has dared ask before. How do they do it? Some of the world’s most prominent thinkers tackle a mystery shrouded in ignorance and prejudice. They tear back the curtain on a taboo and draw a startling link between a people’s achievements and the darkest hours in its history.
MORE ABOUT FILM
Their contribution to humanity is enormous, unique and exceedingly difficult to explain. From Moses to Maimonides, to Mahler, Marx, Freud, Einstein and some 197 Nobel Prize laureates, the stunning social, scientific and artistic accomplishments of the Jews raise an obvious question. How do they do it?
The story of huge overrepresentation at the top is the same wherever you look. How does 1/500th of the world’s population produce so many prominent musicians, architects, lawyers, doctors, journalists, comedians and directors? A third of the medical faculty at Harvard is Jewish, as are nearly 40 per cent of history’s undisputed world chess champions.
In 1954, New York State school tests revealed 28 students with IQs over 170. Astonishingly, 24 of them were Jewish.
“The numbers are bizarre. They make no sense at all,” says Montreal rabbi Reuben Poupko. For Harvard professor Steven Pinker “Jewish achievement is obvious; only the explanation is unclear.”
Calling Jewish success “colossal” and “extraordinary,” renowned British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins recently speculated that “something about the cultural tradition of Jews is way, way more sympathetic to science and learning and intellectual pursuits.”
Recent writings focus on wildly speculative hypotheses. Some suggest that Jews have been winnowed for success through persecution. Others posit that Jews developed their minds in challenging professions after abandoning agriculture in the first Millenium. Still, others see a link between Ashkenazi genetic disorders and high intelligence.
Jewish genius remains a giant elephant in the room, today. “Jewish intellectual superiority is rarely if ever discussed in Jewish publications,” writes author Lewis Regenstein. “To some, these facts are awkward and even embarrassing, feeding stereotypes of ‘crafty’ Jews good at making money and flaunting their superiority to non-Jews.
”A good reason not to make the film? Perhaps. But we take the bolder approach of Prof. Pinker who noted recently: ‘In every age, taboo questions raise our blood pressure and threaten moral panic. But we cannot be afraid to answer them.'”
MORE ABOUT DIRECTOR – John Curtin
John Curtin is a Montreal filmmaker and journalist with more than 30 years of experience in television, radio and print. He has a Gemini Award and several other prizes to his credit. He has freelanced for The New York Times and reported from abroad for CBC and National Public Radio.
Curtin has written, directed and produced 22 documentaries, including a four-part series on the British monarchy for CBC’s Doc Zone. His films have been broadcast on the CBC, CTV, BBC, PBS, ARD, NHK, National Geographic, ARTE, Discovery Channel and others.
Curtin was a correspondent for CBC Radio in Paris and West Berlin for five years and a staff reporter at CBC TV in Montreal for seven years. He has a Master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Toronto and also speaks French and German.
FESTIVALS & AWARDS
Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival 2019 Selection
PRESS & REVIEWS
“It is an illuminating and fascinating look at what propels so many Jews to over-achieve on so many fronts and what the consequences — both positive and negative — have been.”
Bill Brownstein, THE MONTREAL GAZETTE
“You have created an important document of Jewish history. To date, nothing like this has ever been memorialized on film.”
– Brad Davis, New York
“Without any doubt, the overall BEST film I have ever seen – among many! – touching on so many aspects – known and less so – about Jews and Jewish life.”
– Edward Singer, Montreal
“Fabulous!!! Extremely well written, beautiful cinematography, and superb editing.”
– Elliott Kanbar, New York
“Your film is all that it promised to be, and more…. a contribution to making the world a better place.”
– Prof. Antal Deutsch, Montreal
“I LOVED LOVED it, for many reasons… interesting, insightful and compelling. It was wonderful.”
– Katrina, New York
“I was deeply touched, watching your film. It asks all the right questions and offers, at best, only partial answers so, for me, you nailed it. It is beautiful to watch but, more importantly, offers a depth of insight into who we are.”
– Kerry Gordon, Toronto