MOVIE OF THE WEEK May 31, 2024: THE COMMANDANT’S SHADOW

At a time when some U.S. public schools are shutting down lesson plans that run the risk of making White American children feel bad about the country’s history of enslavement and oppression, The Commandant’s Shadow is an especially timely reminder of the dangers of willfully turning a blind eye to history. Daniela Volker’s documentary about coming to terms with both personal and societal legacies is a compelling addition to the catalog of films about World War II and the Holocaust.

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THE COMMANDANT’S SHADOW – Review by Loren King

By focusing on the specific stories of several individuals, director Daniela Volker’s The Commandant’s Shadow explores universal issues about generational trauma related to the Holocaust. It’s a moving and profound journey that we take with the son, daughter, and grandson of notorious Auschwitz commander Rudolf Hoss, the Nazi responsible for the systematic murder of millions and the subject of Jonathan Glazer’s Oscar-winning film The Zone of Interest.

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NICKY’S FAMILY – Retroview by Jennifer Merin

Just before the outbreak of World War II, an unassuming English businessman named Nicholas Winton traveled to Czechoslovakia and witnessed conditions that compelled him to organize the transport of 669 Czech and Slovak children — many of them Jewish — from their homeland to the safety of England. With careful planning and tremendous courage, he rescued them from suffering and death at the hands of Nazi invaders who eventually killed many of the children’s parents, siblings and extended family members.

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THE ZONE OF INTEREST – Review by Susan Granger

How do you choose what movie to watch? Most people want to be entertained. Others want to be educated. British filmmaker Jonathan Glazer’s harrowing Holocaust drama The Zone of Interest – recipient of five Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director – falls into the latter category. Loosely adapted from Martin Amis’ 2014 novel, it follows the seemingly mundane lives of Auschwitz Commandant Rudolf Hoss (Christian Friedl), his wife Hedwig (Sandra Huller) and their children who dwell in a comfortable home that’s adjacent to the notorious concentration camp in Western Poland.

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THE ZONE OF INTEREST – Review by Liz Braun

The Zone of Interest is a film centered on the domestic life of Rudolf Höss, commandant of Auschwitz. This is a timely and terrifying film directed (and co-written) by Jonathan Glazer, and loosely based on the novel by Martin Amis. It is beautifully made, profoundly unsettling, and it is rightfully heralded as one of the most important films of the year. The story looks at the daily lives of Höss (Christian Friedel) and his wife Hedwig (Sandra Huller), who are raising their children in a lovely villa right beside the camp — an idyllic setting with a beautiful garden and a river nearby where the children swim. The chimneys belching black smoke day and night are just a little thing in one’s peripheral vision. There is no arm’s-length remove provided here by either history or movie-making, and for the viewer, psychologically speaking, there’s nowhere to hide.

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THE ZONE OF INTEREST – Review by Maitland McDonagh

Both sensitive and slyly ambitious Rudolf Hoss (Christian Friedel) and his wife, Hedwig (Sandra Huller), thrive on order and for the former, that’s an ideal qualification for military life. Rudolf quickly rises through the ranks, while Hedwig dedicates herself to being a wife and mother to the two children she quickly bears, Hans and Inge… yes, one girl and one boy, a child to replace each parent. Hedwig keeps an impeccable house, cultivates an impressive garden in which both flowers and vegetables thrive and raising Hans and Inge. Their lovely house would shine in the most competitive American suburb, their dog is adorable… and they radiate an unspoken but clearly shared belief in their own perfection: One that’s based on fulfilling an almost comical ideal of partnership, parenthood and division of labor while the crematorium visible over their back wall is converting enormous numbers of other people into greasy smoke and ashes.

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THE ZONE OF INTEREST – Review by Diane Carson

It is a daunting challenge to present a cinematic experience that does justice to the Holocaust without repeating previous worthy considerations of the unfathomable horrors. Stretching back to Alain Resnais’ 1956 Night and Fog, important fiction and nonfiction works have honored the victims’ memories amidst various dramatizations of Nazi inhumanity. Writer/director Jonathan Glazer has forged a new approach in The Zone of Interest, a narrative of overwhelming, astonishing restraint. Loosely based on Martin Amis’ 2014 novel, Glazer’s narrative enters the pantheon of unforgettable films on the Holocaust, adding another chapter to our understanding of the banality of evil.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK February 17, 2023: A RADIANT GIRL

There’s something incredibly poignant about watching someone happily going about their everyday life with no idea that history is coming for them, inescapably and inexorably. Such is the circumstance of Irène (Rebecca Marder), the young, exuberant, and Jewish main character of A Radiant Girl. That’s because writer/director Sandrine Kiberlain’s debut feature is set in German-occupied Paris in 1942, when being Jewish was quickly becoming very, very dangerous.

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A RADIANT GIRL – Review by Jennifer Merin

French writer/director Sandrine Kiberlain’s stunning first feature, A Radiant Girl, is an intimate reveal of the daily life of nineteen year old Irene, who lives with her family in a comfortable apartment in a well-to-do Paris quartier.  Lovely Irene is bright and personable and pretty. For her, the future seems full of possibilities. She is hungry to experience life and she sets about doing so with appealing carefree abandon. She is passionate about theater, curious about love, finds joy in gathering with friends. She is a thoroughly engaging ‘every girl’, and you will enjoy her as she enjoys her life. But she is a Jew in Paris in 1942, and her future is…engangered.

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SHTETLERS – Review by Emma Badame

Community is an essential part of understanding who you are and where you fit in. As the world expands and grows ever more chaotic, there’s comfort and calm to be found in the strong ties that bind. They lift us up, give us purpose, and support us. But what happens when your community disappears? Forced apart or scattered to the wind by circumstance. That’s the question at the heart of Katya Ustinova’s debut feature documentary, Shtetlers.

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