“When you create a story about yourself that’s based on a lie about who you are and who your family is, sooner or later it’s bound to be revealed,” political journalist Anne Applebaum says at the beginning of Joseph Martin and Sam Blair’s engrossing documentary, Keep Quiet. “Who are we really?” In 2012, Csanád Szegedi was a terrifying young star in Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party, one of the founders of the paramilitary, pro-Nazi, nationalist Hungarian Guard, rising to election to the European Parliament on the strength of a resurgent, virulent anti-Semitism. “I wanted everyone to believe in the world as I saw it,” he says in the film. “Anti-Semitism and discrimination of Jews was a powerful motivation.” But it all came crumbling down when the public heard an audio recording of the young leader’s phone conversation with disgruntled Jobbik party member Zoltán Ambrus, who tells Szegedi that his family is actually Jewish. At first Szegedi refuses to believe it, but soon his maternal grandmother is admitting to him that she is indeed a Holocaust survivor, with a number tattooed on her arm and memories of the camps.
Martin (Win a Baby, Scientologists at War) and Blair (Personal Best, Maradona ’86) detail how Szegedi dealt with this dramatic revelation as the conflicted man shares his innermost thoughts, meets with Orthodox Rabbi Boruch Oberlander, and travels to Auschwitz with Holocaust survivor Eva “Bobby” Neumann. He undergoes a radical transformation that not everyone trusts as the film explores who we are, the impact of where we come from, and whether blood trumps all. Keep Quiet is particularly relevant in a world that is experiencing yet another frightening rise in anti-Semitism, especially in Europe. Martin and Blair also delve into Hungary’s history with the Jews, and it’s not a very pleasant one. The film gets to the very heart of the matter, examining the nature of religious hatred in one man who reevaluates everything he believes in when the tables are suddenly turned. Keep Quiet, which features a beautiful score by cellist and composer Philip Sheppard, was shown in the World Documentary Competition at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival and is opening theatrically February 17 at Lincoln Plaza.