Seven-DVD Set of Holocaust Movies

Posted on February 5, 2013 at 8:00 am

 ALDEN FILMS is distributing a new 7-DVD special on the Holocaust that is an important resources for schools, libraries, and families.  For a limited time, the set includes two extra DVDs:

WHAT FIRE CAN’T BURN, a tale of a childhood lost to Thereseinstadt

BETWEEN BERLIN AND JERUSALEM, an interpretation of present-day attitudes to Jews and Israel in post-Holocaust Germany.

AMBULANCE  — the classic trigger film of the Holocaust, depicting the use of disguised ambulances as killing vans of Jewish children

 CHILDREN OF THE EXODUS — the uplifting film of child survivors of the Holocaust who miraculously sailed to Israel on the actual ship Exodus

1947  EICHMANN: THE NAZI FUGITIVE  — the story of the architect of the Holocaust and his eventual capture

LEGACY OF ANNE FRANK — a young girl hiding with her family wrote a diary that is still a testament to hope during the Holocaust.  This film features her father, Otto Frank, and Miep Gies, who hid the Frank family.

MEMORANDUM — the survivors of Bergen Belsen concentration camp return to the scene of their torment

POLAND/KOLBUSZOWA — a look back at the world of the Shtetl, which was destroyed by the Holocaust

SIGHET, SIGHET — Elie Wiesel’s haunting return to his hometown in Hungary, where the town’s Jews were rounded up and sent to Auschwitz, never to return

For orders and previews, call 800-832-0980

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Documentary

Interview: Arnon Goldfinger of “The Flat”

Posted on November 1, 2012 at 8:00 am

After documentary filmmaker Arnon Goldfinger’s grandmother died at age 97 in Israel, he brought a film crew to her apartment where she and his grandfather lived from the time they immigrated to what was then called Palestine just before World War II.  He was fascinated by their home, which seventy years later looked as though it had been transplanted from their birthplace in Germany.  The books on the shelves were in German.  They always spoke German in their home.  Most of their lives were lived in Israel, but they lived as though they were still in Berlin.

Goldfinger thought he would learn something about his grandparents as the family sorted through their belongings.  But he could never have imagined what he would find or where it would take him.  His grandmother had saved issues of one of the most virulently anti-Semitic newspapers distributed in Nazi Germany.  This discovery led to a journey that illuminated one of the strangest friendships imaginable, represented by an artifact that is almost unthinkable — a coin with a Jewish star on one side and a Nazi swastika on the other.  The movie also focuses on the strain this inquiry put on Goldfinger’s relationship with his mother, who was almost as passionate about not finding out the answers to his questions as Goldfinger was about seeking them.

I spoke to Goldfinger when he was in Washington, D.C. to show the film, which opens tomorrow.

What did you think you were going to film?

To be honest, I just wanted to be there with the camera and document the world I knew was going to disappear very quickly.  I thought it would be an even quicker process.  I knew this flat all my life and I had an ambivalent feeling toward it.  On the one hand, I had an attraction to this world, to this culture, to those books, to the secrets, the mystery.  On the other hand, as an Israeli it was so foreign, so German, so connected to the tragic happenings in the Holocaust.  It was only later I had an idea to make a film, but even then the idea was just something very short.  People would ask, “What can you learn about someone from what they leave behind?”  This shows you can learn a lot.

What does your mother think about the movie?

I was very afraid of course.  Our relationship was close before and if it would stay like that, it would be fine.  But I was surprised.  It brought us closer.  She was very supportive of the film.  After the first screening, when she first saw it, she said she saw it was important for her, too.  When her friends saw the film, they said to her, “We didn’t know, either.  We didn’t ask.”  She felt that she was not alone.

Why was your mother reluctant to know more?

She was really raised in a German house.  I remember as a kid, hearing her argue with her parents in German.  But when she went out of the flat, she was in Tel Aviv, the Mediterranean combined with bohemian, a place of vibrance.  She lived two lives.  But like all of the people of her age, she wanted to leave the past behind her, as you see when you look at her flat, not even any dust from the past.  Your house is the place you want to live in.  And she wanted to live with with barriers to all the historical items.  Before I made the film I thought it was her character.  But now I understand it’s a barrier from all the pain and sorrow.

You met with Edda, the daughter of the Nazi couple who were your grandparents’ friends.  Tell me something about your impressions.

They were lovely people, very friendly, welcoming, warm.  That made it harder.  If they were nasty it would have been easier for me.  During my research I would think, “Maybe it’s not possible, maybe it’s not right” that this friendship existed between my grandparents and the Nazis.  If I called someone out of the blue and said “My grandparents knew your parents, I would not recognize one name.” But the way she recognized it so immediately, the way she knew and was so glad to hear from me in such an open way and with such memories — I don’t remember even one gift my parents’ friends gave me — but for her, she remembered so much.

What about her father, the man who was your grandparents’ friend while having an important role in the Nazi party?

I found much more about him than what is in the film.  It was important to say that he did not live the Nazi party.  He was involved in anti-Semitic propaganda.  But he wanted to stay in contact with Jews.  I found all kinds of other things about him, nothing that would change your mind, no smoking gun, but you could ask yourself, “Did he have an alternative?”  The way to describe what happened was this.  Nobody knew what Hitler wanted, but everybody knew if they did something Hitler did not want, it’s the end.  It was a classic regime of terror.  There’s a book called Alone in Berlin that described life in the war. It’s horrible.  I am a Jew; I don’t so much identify with them, but still I can understand and ask the question, “Could he do something?”  If you look at his career, you won’t find him in the concentration camps.  He is in the headquarters, spying, thinking.  For me, it’s enough.

One of the most shocking moments for me was when Edda told me that she knew my family had lost someone in the concentration camps.  She did not have the details right.  She thought it was my grandfather’s mother, not my grandmother’s mother.  She’s a little mistaken with the details but it shows that she and therefore her parents knew some of what happened.  That means my grandparents were sitting over there in the garden where we were, discussing the death of someone from their family with a man who was a Nazi.  Did they ask him if he received their letter asking for help?  Did he tell them he could not help them?  There were a lot of lies over there.

My favorite character in the movie was your grandmother’s friend.  What a beautiful face.  I felt I knew your grandmother by seeing her friend.

She was my grandmother’s closest friend and like an aunt to me.  When I first approached her, she did not want to be filmed.  She was the only one, and I could not understand why.  It took me almost a year to persuade her.  But she said, “I will give you half an hour, but you come alone.”  I told her I had to bring a cameraman and a sound man, and she said, “No, no, no.”  In the end, it was only me and the cameraman.  I figured she would see it is not threatening and she would let me stay longer.  The cameraman said, “Be careful.  Remember who you are dealing with.  Ask the questions you want in the beginning not as usual at the end.”  After 32 minutes she told me it is enough.  Three months later she passed away.  Her daughter was so happy that I captured her in her beauty.  There’s such elegance in those characters.

Why did your grandmother keep the Der Angriff newspapers even though they were filled with anti-Semitic propaganda?

There was something emotional about it, a memory from a very, very important event in their life.  The idea was to keep an eye on the Nazi and push him to include more Zionist material in his story.  There may be a possibility my grandfather even edited the article.  It was something very vivid at the time and maybe she forgot about it.  She never opened it again.  Maybe she forgot about it.

What are you going to do with them?

I think maybe give them to the Zionist archive in Jerusalem or to Yad Vashem.

Why does this movie touch people so deeply?

The film is telling an amazing story about a Nazi and a Jew, but really it is a movie about family, what you know about your family, what you want to know, what you can know.  Those questions anyone can identify with, especially in America, a place of immigrants.  Some people who see the movie tell me, “I want to ask my parents more about our history.”  And some say, “I need to get rid of a lot of the things in my house!”

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Directors Documentary Interview

The Debt

Posted on August 30, 2011 at 6:04 pm

A+
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating: Rated R for some violence and language
Profanity: Some strong and offensive language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, smoking, drugs
Violence/ Scariness: Characters in peril, injured, and killed, some graphic images, references to Holocaust atrocities
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: August 31, 2011
Date Released to DVD: December 6, 2011
Amazon.com ASIN: B003Y5H4Y8

Stories are linear.  Part of what gives them their power is that we jettison the details that are distracting or unimportant.  But real life is messy.  That may not be as compelling, but is honest.  As we are told in “The Man Who Shots Liberty Valance,” “When the truth becomes legend, print the legend.”  And sometimes the legend becomes the truth.

That is the story of “The Debt.”  It begins in 1997, when a woman is celebrating the publication of her book, which tells the story of her parents’ daring capture of a Nazi war criminal named Vogel in East Germany three decades before.  Her parents, now divorced, are Rachel Singer (Helen Mirren) and Stephan Gold (Tom Wilkenson).  Rachel still has a scar on her cheek from the prisoner’s attack on her when he tried to escape.  She shot him to keep him from getting away.

Then we go back to the 1960’s, when Rachel (Jessica Chastain) passes through the Berlin Wall on her first assignment as a Mossad agent.  The man they are looking for was responsible for atrocities that were a grotesque version of medical experiments during the war.  Now he is a gynecologist under the name Bernhardt (the Danish actor Jesper Christensen), and Rachel is assigned to visit him as a patient, posing as the wife of another agent, David Peretz (Sam Worthington), under the direction of their leader, Stephan (Marton Csokas). The first time through, we saw the story they told.  Now we see what really happened, and then we will see how the three of them, in their 60’s, finish the story.

It is a tense thriller with some action and a lot of suspense, especially the war of nerves as Bernhardt and the three young agents are stuck in a grimy apartment for days, essentially prisoners of each other.  The young agents are rattled by Vogel’s coolness and manipulation.  And then, decades later, their story starts to unravel and they have to finish what they started.

The movie works very well as a thriller that benefits from some ambitious aspirations and superb performances from Christensen, Wilkenson, and Mirren.  But it spins out of control in the last 20 minutes, sacrificing story for action and losing much of its gritty momentum.

 

 

(more…)

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Blessed is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh

Posted on April 19, 2010 at 3:57 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: NR
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: Mild
Violence/ Scariness: Depiction of wartime and holocaust-related violence
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: 2009
Date Released to DVD: April 13, 2010
Amazon.com ASIN: B00366E1AU

Blessed Is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh is a documentary about a woman of incalculable courage and honor. Senesh, an idealist who hoped to help create a Jewish state in Israel, escaped from Hungary to what was then British-controlled Palestine. Instead of staying where she was safe, she joined a mission to rescue Jews in her home country, the only military rescue mission for Jews during the Holocaust. She parachuted behind enemy lines, was captured, tortured and ultimately executed by a Nazi firing squad. The documentary features those who knew her, including Israeli President Shimon Peres, who knew Senesh as a young pioneer in the 1940s, and two of her fellow parachutists, Reuven Dafni and Surika Braverman, along with renowned historian Sir Martin Gilbert.

Senesh is a national heroine in Israel, where her story and her poetry is well-known. Many synagogues around the world sing a hymn with lyrics from one of her poems:

My God, My God, I pray that these things never end,
The sand and the sea,
The rustle of the waters,
Lightning of the Heavens,
The prayer of Man.

This is the last poem she wrote:

Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame.
Blessed is the flame that burns in the secret fastness of the heart.
Blessed is the heart with strength to stop its beating for honor’s sake.
Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame.

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Biography Documentary DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week

Michael Verhoeven at the Jewish Film Festival

Posted on December 7, 2009 at 1:57 pm

At noon today, Visionary Award recipient Michael Verhoeven was interviewed by Sharon Rivo, Co-Founder and Executive Director, National Center for Jewish Film. We saw a few moments from his new film, “Human Failure,” which has its North American premiere tonight at the festival. It is a documentary about the discovery of an extraordinary archive from the Nazi era. For more than 60 years, tax records showing the appropriation — the authorized theft — of money and property from members of the Jewish community had been protected by privacy laws. But a professor found a stash of 20,000 files in Cologne, made copies of some of them, and created a museum exhibit. When Verhoeven read in the newspapers about the exhibition, he became involved and made the movie.
Theses special taxes were based on property, not income, so Jews were required to submit detailed inventories of every possession they had, down to the children’s dolls, according to Verhoeven. These are not just documents of what was lost. They provide a snapshot of the lives of these families. Many of the files include facts about the people as well as the property and the short clip we saw included an American who discovered for the first time what had happened to his great-uncle through a newspaper story on the files.
Verhoeven, whose previous films include feature films based on history “The Nasty Girl” (a young woman who exposed her community’s involvement with the Holocaust), “My Mother’s Courage” (a woman who escaped being sent to a concentration camp) and “The White Rose” (about young protesters who were killed by the Nazis), said that when he graduated from high school in 1957, the history of the Third Reich was not being taught. “It was the Cold War. It was not interesting any more who was a Nazi. What was interesting was who was a communist.” Even now, he says, there were those who tried to prevent this archive from being exhibited. But the movie’s release (it was shown in connection with the exhibit for three months) is evidence that “people face the past, people cope with the past. It’s a good thing.”

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