Louis And The Nazis
by Faye Wertheimer - Dec 18
If film director Stuart Cabb had let slip his Jewish identity whilst making Louis Theroux's latest film, 'Louis & the Nazis', all hell could have broken loose. 'Befriending' some of America's most notorious neo-Nazis was integral to Theroux's anti-racist exploits and so Stuart followed him into three sets of US white supremacists‘ homes. But the film, despite it’s controversial and emotive content , is by no means all doom and gloom but an insight into a surreal, distorted and nightmarish world.
There's April Gaede, racist mother of Lamb and Lynx, the beautiful 11 year old mascots and star-performers at a 400-strong neo-Nazi rally. Down in Fallbrook, there's renowned racial agitator Tom Metzger, 60 upon whom 'American History X's' central character is based. And thirdly, there's a hardcore, low -income skinhead couple, who are convinced Theroux is Jewish-which he is not--and simply itching to kick off!
35-year-old Stuart says:
These people do still exist in society and we show them for what they really are--dangerous people with an unnecessary and foolish ideology. They took this publicity knowing we'd offer them intelligent debate. Doing so was disturbing, painful and embarrassing but they had to be heard out for our case to be built up. Shouting them down after every racist comment would teach us nothing. Louis dislikes confrontation.
For him to seriously challenge their views, the racists had to reveal themselves in their true light, appearing as real people, not as two dimensional stereotypes--and their initial mistrust had to be diffused.
So during the seven months' project, we formed relationships with them. And perversely, except for the skinheads, we actually found neutral ground for getting along together-- till the inevitable antisemitic or generally racist statement popped out.
Our contributors’ sickening credo is blatant. The skinheads' home, garage and Xmas tree are festooned in swastikas. Adorable as they are, Lamb and Lynx are indoctrinated. They recite Hitler’s grace in German and, oblivious to any possible offence it might give, play hopscotch round a swastika on the kitchen floor. And Tom, charismatic as he may be, is nonetheless a bankrupt , paying off a $12 million fine for inciting the racial murder of an African.
In 12 years of directing, I've never faced a situation so central to the core of what I am. Culturally, I'm a very middle-of-the-road Jew who instinctively nips any racist remarks in the bud. Having to remain passive as venom poured out two feet from my camera lens every day became very depressing. It was difficult enough on day one of filming to stomach that Holocaust Revisionists' nonsense without letting out what I really thought of them . But by day eight, it became unbearable.
The drip, drip drip of hateful, exhausting rhetoric got to us all. My soundman, Louis and I often had nightmares. We’d worry how'd we get through the next day's work as in Fallbrook, there was little opportunity to let off steam. The restaurants shut at 7pm and our crappy hotel had no water and non-functional toilets.
I’d constantly question what I was doing. OK. I feared the skinheads’ potential violence, so keeping quiet about being Jewish in their presence made sense - although it was Louis they suspected, not me. However, lying about my religion to 11 year old girls - was that really why I got into television? Part of me acknowledged this was fascinating footage and revelatory film-making but it was hard retaining my dignity and professionalism without spilling the beans. And the truth would mean the end of the film.
On location, I rang home less often than usual and was pretty unsociable whenever back here. Even a month after wrapping , the film affected me . In cafes I’d find myself noticing which customers were mixed race, Chinese or Asian - just like those racists. Yet I was back in the world where not everyone was full of hatred and where it was clear there were many good reasons to be alive.
Overall, the experience has rekindled my interest in being Jewish and clarified how many people want to put us down and get rid of us - without even knowing us. So whilst editing the footage - and wincing at every piece of diatribe - half of me felt like including only the least anti-semitic remarks, whilst the other half wanted the worst. But why dilute it? If we're showing horror on screen, let’s play to its extreme and see how warped these people’s beliefs really are.
I know the programme will disturb those I care about. I'm sensitive about my family watching it as it's not their kind of film, so I‘ll watch it with them. They’ll worry when they realise I was there, filming what they're hearing and seeing - I never mentioned the topic to my mother till I was home for good. My father fought in the Second World War and saw many friends die, so the idea of his son anywhere near a swastika, never mind amidst 400 skinheads at a Nazi rally will surprise if not shock him, too.
I don't regret making this film but it's given me a helluva hard year. Maybe I'll tackle the subject in time to come but meanwhile, I'll just enjoy being Jewish - openly.