Saturday, February 5, 2011

"Nuremberg" & "Shoah" : Defining Documentaries of the Past Century
at Landmark & IFC Feb 4 - May 13

Two of the most significant Holocaust and post-Holocaust documentaries ever produced, both re-released by IFC & Landmark Theatres and screening in cities across the US in the coming month! Suppressed by the US War Department in it's 1947 release, the english subtitled print never completed, the film never shown in domestic theatres. "Nuremberg" is a defining, unseen document of the most significant trial in modern history, one which established our current definitions of war vs. crime, the objectives of the military industrial complex, and culpability, both 'theirs' and 'ours' in these world-changing events. "Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today depicts the most famous courtroom drama in modern times, and the first to make extensive use of film as evidence. It was also the first trial to be extensively documented, aurally and visually. All of the proceedings, which lasted for nearly 11 months, were recorded. And though the trial was filmed while it was happening, strict limits were placed on the Army Signal Corps cameramen by the Office of Criminal Counsel. In the end, they were permitted to film only about 25 hours over the entire course of the trial. This was to prove a great impediment for writer/director Stuart Schulberg, and his editor Joseph Zigman, when they were engaged to make the official film about the trial, in 1946, shortly after its conclusion."
Next, but no less significant for it having been seen by a (somewhat) larger audience, the daunting, yet essential collection of postwar accounts by Holocaust survivors and Reich supporters that is the sprawling, humanistic, crushingly empathetic, aesthetically rigorous work that is Claude Lanzmann's "Shoah". Don't be daunted b y it's 9 1/2 hour duration, this is not only essential viewing, but also deeply rich and descriptive of life lived through the era depicted, but also the landscapes, places, minds and hearts, defined, destroyed, erased, changed by the incommunicable that took place on earth under a regime comprised of *people*, which is the point of insight into this dark historic labyrinth that Lanzmann never let's us forget. Excellent article in the January/February edition of Film Comment thanks to Kent Jones, assessing the Godard vs. Lanzmann vs. Adorno stances for those that wish to read further. From the IFC site: "Twelve years in the making, "Shoah" is Claude Lanzmann’s monumental epic on the Holocaust featuring interviews with survivors, bystanders and perpetrators in 14 countries. The film does not contain any historical footage but rather features interviews which seek to ‘‘reincarnate’’ the Jewish tragedy and also visits places where the crimes took place. Growing out of Lanzmann’s concern that the genocide perpetrated only 40 years earlier was already retreating into the mists of time, and that the atrocity was becoming sanitized as History, his massive achievement-at once epic and intimate, immediate and definitive-is a triumph of form and content that reveals hidden truths while rewriting the rules of documentary filmmaking. "Shoah" remains nothing less than essential."

Link to "Nuremberg: It's Lesson for Today" site

Link to Landmark Theatre's "Nuremberg: It's Lesson for Today" site

Link to IFC's "Shoah" site

Link to Film Comment's Jan/Feb Issue "Shoah" article