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Hate Groups Face the Camera

`BLOOD in the Face,' a disturbing look at the American white-supremacy movement, is as chilling and important as any film I've seen in a long while. Its nonfiction authenticity makes it the scariest picture around, putting thrillers like "The Vanishing" and "The Silence of the Lambs" in the shade. It was conceived by journalist James Ridgeway, who directed it with Anne Bohlen and Kevin Rafferty. "Blood in the Face" consists largely of interviews with bigots and racists who take those labels as a compliment. Some regard Adolf Hitler as their spiritual leader, while others quote the Bible. One of the striking things about the film is how different American racists are, despite their talk about "sticking with your own kind" as the right way to live.

Some of the film's interviews reveal paranoia so extreme as to suggest profound mental instability. Yet other individuals speak more gently, some insisting that "hate" isn't their motivation, but rather "love" - though only for "your own kind," with others to be removed from the scene as completely as possible.

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The movie takes its title from a couple of racists who explain that the name Adam means "blood in the face," or blushing - and since only white people can blush, God must have created the true human race white. Or something like that. Spectators not converted to white supremacy by this argument may also be skeptical about other assertions made in the film: that Jerry Falwell is a Jew, for example, and that the Holocaust never happened. One group insists that there's an army of North Koreans in Baja Cali fornia, and an army of Viet Cong in British Columbia, planning a takeover of North America.

All this might be grimly amusing if not for the fact that some members of the white-supremacy crowd are physically dangerous. One young woman, who appears plain-spoken and sincere, turns out to be the wife of a vicious fanatic who was arrested with an arsenal of weapons. Others speak openly of violence as a good way of achieving their ends.

I guess I'm a bigot myself, because I despise what these people stand for, and everything in this movie just hardens my conviction - despite the speakers' confidence that their views will prevail, and that they're "using" the filmmakers to spread their beliefs just as the filmmakers are "using" them to make a documentary with opposite goals.

Fiction films like "Betray-al," by Costa-Gavras, and "Talk Radio," by Oliver Stone, have attacked white-supremacy groups, but they failed to reach the heart of the subject; there's a terrifying absurdity in organized racism that's truly stranger than fiction. "Blood in the Face" lets Ku Klux Klansmen, American Nazi Party members, and others expose themselves through their own words.

The film would be stronger if it placed its subject in a broader context, made an attempt to explain the genesis of such bizarre views, and told us whether the radical-right movement is growing or shrinking at the present time. As it stands, it's a limited account but a forceful one - in all, a horror movie well worth seeing.

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