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GROWING GENRE from page 79
Polanski is continuing the tradition."
There is widespread agreement that
the spate of Holocaust-themed movies,
though occasionally descending into
"Holokitsch," has familiarized millions
of people — many of whom would
never crack a book on the subject —
with the "Final Solution."
One dissenter is Austrian director
Andre Heller of Blind Spot.
Pointing to the rise of right-wing
nationalist parties in his country and
France, Heller believes that dozens of
domestic and imported Holocaust films
(except Schindler's List) have had little
impact on the public consciousness.
"I have little faith that art can
enlighten people," he said.
A relatively new sub-genre of the
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In Blind Spot, Hitler's secretary
remembers her early infatuation (later
recalled with shame) with her boss as a
fatherly figure who, among other sen-
sitivities, couldn't bear to see dead
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More recently, interest has shifted to
Hitler's early adulthood as a struggling
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upcoming CBS-television miniseries, a
trend headlined by the Los Angeles Jewish
Journal as "Prime Time for Hitler."
Both the film and the miniseries
have been criticized as attempts to
"humanize" Hitler, but Berenbaum of
the University of Judaism thinks that
it is Hitler's very humanity that makes
him such a truly demonic figure.
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JN: Which films resonate with you
Al: Many films resonate with me per-
sonally. I tend to seek out and cele-
brate those that did not have an easy
time commercially, like Andrzej
Wajda's Korczak (1990).
It is a deeply moving recreation of
Janusz Korczak's last years in the
Warsaw Ghetto, trying to protect the
200 children of his orphanage.
Moreover, the cinematic style
(including black-and-white images and
a self-conscious inclusion of the work
of Nazi cameramen) makes us aware
of the flawed processes by which histo-
ry is recorded and transmitted.
JN: How do you think age affects
the way people. perceive these films?
AI: Its hard to generalize because some
Holocaust-related films are made for a
wide-ranging audience (like Life fs
Beautiful), while others are meant to be
seen only by adults (like the brilliant
Polish documentary Photographer).
Since I grew up during the Vietnam
War, my awareness of the Holocaust
included the immediacy of battles, lost
lives and tragic waste. That may not
be the case for younger viewers today.
JN: How do you separate your emo-
tional responses to these films from
your analysis as an educator and critic?
AI: I trust my emotions — partly
because they are always tempered by
my critical sense — and use them as
the basis for my teaching and writing.
I take notes after every film I see,
assessing how and why the motion pic-
ture affected me, from script and acting
to cinematography, music and editing.
JN: Are there certain films you
would especially recommend to
Jewish or non-Jewish audiences?
AI: I don't distinguish between Jewish
and non-Jewish audiences. A great
film is for all viewers, and a mediocre
film isn't better for one group than
My book's annotated filmography
includes -an asterisk next to the
dozens of films that are highly recom-
JN: Why do you think interest is
growing in Holocaust films and
Jewish film festivals that inevitably
have Holocaust films?
AI: The Holocaust provides an end-
less number of dramatic stories, both
true and imagined.
_ Moreover, these stories engage us on
levels that demand a more active moral
response: What might we have done in
the situation, for example, of a Christian
neighbor asked to hide a Jew?
Second, these films are part of a
wider cultural embracing of the
Shoah, as manifested by new institu-
tions like the U.S. Holocaust
JN: Do you think that people are
being overwhelmed and/or emotion-
ally drained by seeing so many of
AI: No. Films help to keep the memory
of the Holocaust alive. I prefer an abun-
of Holocaust-related films to their
absence from cultural attention.
JN: How have your parents'
response to Holocaust films marked-
ly contrasted with yours?
AI: Unfortunately, my father is no longer
alive. However, my mother's responses
to Holocaust films have played a great