Film Type: Documentary

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Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust

Storyline

IMAGINARY WITNESS: HOLLYWOOD AND THE HOLOCAUST tells a provocative and mostly unknown story of the 60-year relationship between Hollywood and the atrocities of Nazi Germany. With scenes from over forty films, rare newsreels, and interviews with leading scholars, filmmakers, and witnesses to the events portrayed, IMAGINARY WITNESS takes the viewer on a 60-year journey from the American ambivalence and denial during the heyday of Nazism, through the silence of the post-war years, and into the end of the 20th century. The film explores not only the question of how an industry that sells fantasy has dealt with one of the most horrifying episodes in modern world history, but also how the movies themselves reflect America’s ever-evolving relationship to the events of that era. At the core of the film is an ethical and moral debate about portrayal. Is it even possible to imagine on screen the unimaginable? Should the movie industry even undertake such an endeavor? Ultimately, the film asks hard questions: about the uneasy relationship between American popular culture and the Holocaust, about the responsibility of filmmakers in their portrayal of history, and about the power of film to affect the way we look at ourselves. Narrated by Gene Hackman and featuring a remarkable series of clips and interviews, IMAGINARY WITNESS is a revelation, not least for its large inclusion of material from BEFORE the Holocaust even happened, including American newsreel footage of Nazi book burning that treat it like a fraternity prank and pre-war Hollywood films in which characters refer to Jews as non-Aryans.

 

 

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