Documentary Review: “Soros” humanizes, explains, celebrates the boogie man of America’s far right

In the last decade of the Soviet Empire, George Soros sent copying machines to Eastern Europe.

People like Václav Havel of Czechoslovakia, Lech Wałęsa of Poland and other dissidents behind the Iron Curtain got them. In that pre-Internet age, photocopying fliers, Western newspaper stories and calls to action was a cost-effective way to spread messages of dissent across totalitarian states.

In violent, racist and fascist 1979 South Africa, Soros underwrote a vast academic scholarship program for Black schoolchildren, reasoning that if anything there was ever going to improve, “educating the Blacks” would be behind it.

When the Bosnian Civil War broke out and with it the Serbian genocide against Muslims in the formerly multi-ethnic states of the former Yugoslavia, Soros charities shipped vegetable seeds and newsprint to the besieged minorities, sponsored concerts and the like, an effort to “let them hang on” until the international community finally took action against the aggressors.

And when the Serbian mass murderers were finally brought to justice, it was an in International War Crimes court backed by charities supported by George Soros.

Lucky and rare is the American who doesn’t have some Fox-addicted relative or high school classmate forwarding a chain letter literally demonizing — pictures with little Devil’s horns drawn on — or just blurting out the name “George SOROS” in the middle of a debate that they’ve realized they can’t win on the merits of their arguments.

He is the far right’s Bond Villain, financially responsible for everything they hate, from “Black Lives Matter” and the mythic “antifa” to COVID19 shutdowns and the pumpkin spice flavoring epidemic.

A quick and cringe-worthy montage of Fox News, Russia Today, Rush Limbaugh, Lyndon Larouche, Anne Coulter and Glenn Beck clips, of Britain’s Brexit backer Nigel Farage and Hungarian strongman Viktor Orban cursing his name open “Soros,” a documentary profile of the Hungarian expat, hedge-fund billionaire and global philanthropist. Such hate-mongering montages also show up later in the film, directed by comedy director Jesse Dylan (“American Wedding,” “Kicking and Screaming”). It’s an ongoing caricaturization.

Then Soros himself appears, a very old man in a plain shirt, telling his story. He re-directs Dylan’s off-camera question about the beginning of his “political philanthropy” (the South African scholarships) and tells his life story — growing up in Hungary during the Holocaust, the ways his father kept the family alive, even if he couldn’t keep the Russians from raping his mother after the Germans were finally driven out.

Academics, journalists, non-profit NGO (non-government charitable) organization chiefs, and no less than THREE Nobel laureates then weigh in on Soros the man, his seemingly sincere motivations and his global impact on pushing the world’s repressive regimes towards more “open societies.”

And any sober-minded person who isn’t brainwashed can only wonder, “What on Earth are those people (Fox addicts) upset about?”

Dylan’s film’s interviews are mostly with people who know Soros, including his children and those in charge of the Open Society Foundation, which he backs, although others are here to take a more detached view of his philanthropy and impact on the world.

Fox’s Tucker Carlson lays out why people mistrust Soros, without accepting responsibility for Rupert Murdoch’s media empire’s anti-Soros mania. Oh no, the death threats and bomb sent to Soros’ house have nothing to do with O’Reilly, Beck and Carlson’s ceaseless “dog whistle” attacks on the Hungarian Jew.

Soros is seen in decades of interviews sampled here, typically promoting books that he wrote as he started spending the billions he’d earned as a high roller, betting on or against banks, businesses and governments heading into or emerging from each financial crisis that he had the foresight to anticipate. He talks of the big influences on his thinking, and what’s shaped his philanthropic philosophy.

He sticks up for minorities, like the one he belongs to that so many right wing critics are so very quick to bring up. And when he donates to support free speech, education, equal rights or what have you in Africa, Myanmar, Hungary or the Middle East, he wants to lead by example.

Soros understands the value of “not simply helping people like you.”

The film doesn’t significantly alter the picture of Soros that has emerged from a “60 Minutes” profile here or a CNN interview there. But those aren’t the media organizations lying about his background, exaggerating his influence or twisting his motives. They aren’t the ones drawing Satan’s horns on his head.

Then again, Nobel laureates, American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch and NAACP spokespeople aren’t nearly as credible as Anne Coulter, Rosanne Barr and loony Lyndon Larouche to the hopelessly venal and ill-informed.

As America starts the long process of recovering from the racist-nationalist ignorance of the last four years, an intellectual, moral and financial collapse that even Soros didn’t see coming, “Soros” could be a useful film to buy and send to relatives this holiday season.

The Fox-driven hatred of Soros comes off as many of Donald Trump’s tantrums do — “projection.” Fox oligarch Rupert Murdoch is the one not-so-secretly attacking free speech and disrupting free societies for personal gain. But blame George Soros.

Let the people you won’t be able to see thanks to an incompetently managed pandemic and the political ugliness that Donald Trump’s reign unleashed get a light dose of “fact” in place of the ignorance and hatred they’ve been spreading, one ignorant, Anti-Semitic chain letter at a time.

MPA Rating: unrated

Cast: George Soros, Leymah Gbowee, Kofi Annan, Jeri Laber, Leon Botstein, Joseph Stiglitz, Tucker Carlson, many others

Credits: Directed by Jesse Dylan. An Abramorama release.

Running time: 1:25


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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