to help people and used this knowl-
edge to destroy them."
The Pianist by Roman Polanski,
which garnered three top Oscars
this year, for Best Director, Best
Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay,
dramatizes one man s survival in
Warsaw and its ghetto during their
destruction by the German army.
To the film's producer, Robert
Benmussa, "The Holocaust was the
(!Amen" Filmmaker Costa Gavras
most important moment of the
20th century, maybe in all of histo-
Los Angeles, "In an age of moral rela-
ry. When you make a movie about
tivism, the Holocaust is the absolute stan-
it, it's not just a film but a testimony
dard, the personification of absolute evil."
for the next generation."
He agrees with critics who charge
The passage of time lends perspective,
that Hollywood's treatment has some-
noted filmmaker Claude Lanzmann.
times trivialized the great tragedy but
"The further we move away from
maintains that the effort "has been
the Holocaust, the better we can
mostly for the good."
measure its scope and magnitude," he
It is these dramatic values that some
said. "I could not have made Shoah
Jewish producers and directors say
after only 20 years had passed," he
attract them to the Holocaust "story," •
said, referring to his nine-hour docu-
but cultural critic Neal Gabler believes
mentary about the Holocaust.
However many movies are produced it goes beyond that.
The author of An Empire of Their
about the Holocaust, the stories and
Own: How the Jews Invented
complexities appear inexhaustible.
Hollywood observes that after decades
Even for Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel,
of suppressing their Jewish identity,
who has devoted his life to writing
starting with Hollywood's founding
about the Holocaust, there are unan-
fathers, these present-day descendants
"Something is still missing," he said. now freely acknowledge their heritage.
"The Holocaust has been the doini-
"We have answered many of the his-
nant experience of Jews in the 20th
torical questions, but I still need to
century, and there is no Jew alive who
know more about human behavior,
doesn't respond to it," Gabler said.
about the working of mass psychosis."
"There is a moral obligation to
Another attraction to moviemakers
is the dramatic tension inherent in the remember the Holocaust felt by every
Jew, and by artists most of all. Steven
confrontation between good, or at
Spielberg had to bear witness by mak-
least innocent victimhood, and evil.
ing Schindler's List, and Roman
According to Michael Berenbaum, a
professor at the University of Judaism in
GROWING GENRE on page 80
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in the evolution of Holocaust films
Arts at Columbia, additionally has
and the audiences for them?
The Cinema of Krzysztof Kieslowski and AI: If the first wave of Holocaust
films focused on Jewish victims and
Francois Tru aut. Her next book is on
Nazi criminals, the second wave of
the cinema of Philip Kaufman, the
the past 20 years centers on
brilliant director of films
rescue and resistance.
Once the cinema established
Unbearable Lightness of
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the majority of Europe's
Being, The Right Stuff
Jews were killed during World
War II, it became possible to
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have been published in
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zines, and she has been
The audience for these films
television host of the
grown over the years, part-
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ly because a rescuer like Oskar
coverage for Bravo/IFC
Schindler is someone with
whom a viewer would want to identi-
She recently discussed the
fy, — more than with a victimized Jew
Holocaust in film with the Detroit
or a German oppressor.
JN: Could you summarize patterns
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