Academic journal article Shofar

Projecting the Holocaust into the Present: The Changing Focus of Contemporary Holocaust Cinema

Academic journal article Shofar

Projecting the Holocaust into the Present: The Changing Focus of Contemporary Holocaust Cinema

Article excerpt

Projecting the Holocaust into the Present: The Changing Focus of Contemporary Holocaust Cinema, by Lawrence Baron. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006. 320 pp. $29.95.

Lawrence Baron concludes his study of Holocaust-related cinema by stating "We should cease posing the outdated question. Can the Holocaust be represented in feature films? and ask instead, Which cinematic genres and themes will be used to represent it and render it to future authences?" (p. 263).

The answer is at least implied in this review of six decades of creative (non-documentary) films intended for theatre, on-air television, and cable. Baron's well-researched, heavily annotated but still quite readable volume offers statistical analyses to indicate trends and genres which are then exemplified by detailed synopses and analyses of selected films within each category and decade, complete with reactions from critics, box office receipts, and awards bestowed.

Key to his arguments is the assertion that the Holocaust as a topic has become familiar and acceptable to American (and other) authences, permitting recent film-makers to skip ovet background information in order to concentrate upon the individual stories - of love, action, survival and rescue - that authences most desire and that lead to the greatest box office returns.

Baron provides a statistical portrait of Holocaust films as a growth industry via a "Holocaust Movie Database" which rises from forty-four films made prior to 1950, to more than 220 films produced in each of the decades of the 1980s and '90s, as well as the increasingly international nature of such films. From the earliest productions, differing motivations lay behind many films; he notes that in early post-war Germany films made in the western zones of occupation tended to portray the majority of the German population as innocent victims of their former government, while films produced in the future East Germany "confronted the guilt for Nazi crimes against humanity more candidly because the German Communist Party and the Soviet Union had been Hitlet s archenemies" (p. 27). He also comments upon the univet salizing tendency of American films throughout the 1950s and '60s. …

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