And the Oscar doesn't go to...Holocaust films?

By Tom Tugend, February 17, 2011
Daniel Craig in last year’s Defiance, the story of the partisan Bielski Brothers during the Holocaust

Daniel Craig in last year’s Defiance, the story of the partisan Bielski Brothers during the Holocaust

This is the first year for nearly 50 years that not a single Oscar or Golden Globe entry has focused on the horrors of the Shoah.

Equally ignored, with one peripheral exception, are films on World War II and the Nazi regime. Only a year ago, Jewish GIs were wiping out Hitler and his minions in Inglorious Basterds, and the year before we fed on German guilt and anti-Nazi resistance in The Reader, Defiance and Valkyrie.

It may be even more significant that among the 65 foreign-language films vying for Oscar honours, which often reflect the present moods and concerns of their respective countries, none deal with that historic era.

While some current foreign entries touch on themes of war, oppression and resistance, the time frame has shifted from the 1930s and '40s to post-war Communist and other dictatorships and to recent genocides.

Among the frontrunners for best picture at the February 27 Academy Awards is The King's Speech, which won a record seven prizes at this week Baftas.

Brad Pitt (right) in Inglorious Basterds

Brad Pitt (right) in Inglorious Basterds

The film shows King George V1 studying Hitler's oratory at the start of World War II, but does not touch on the upcoming Holocaust - something which has been the subject of an anti-King's Speech email campaign.

Critics have predicted year after year that the onset of "Holocaust fatigue" spelled the end of that particular film genre, only to be proved wrong the following award season.

The question now is whether the noticeable absence of current movies about Nazi crimes and World War II indicates that the predictions have finally come true, or whether we are looking at a temporary aberration.

Producer Branko Lustig, an Oscar winner for Schindler's List, arguably the Holocaust film with the greatest universal impact, was pessimistic.

Mr Lustig, born in Croatia and a child Holocaust survivor, predicted: "When all the survivors are dead, people will forget about the Shoah. In 35 years, they will not believe that it ever happened."

The producer, who won a second Oscar for Gladiator, said he had been trying for years to make a movie about the Shanghai ghetto, where Jewish refugees found shelter during World War II.

"Nobody wants to put up money for this in the US, Europe or Asia," he lamented.

Director and writer Paul Mazursky, a five-time Oscar nominee, insisted that "Holocaust fatigue will never set in …just look at the fantastic museums we have."

But, after Mazursky had made the well-received Enemies: A Love Story, he wanted to follow up with Shosha, another Isaac Bashevis Singer novel.

"We had a producer, but when he died suddenly, we couldn't find anyone else to put up the money, though I tried for 10 years," he said.

He added: "I think, however, that future Holocaust movies will be made on low budgets by independents, not the major studios."

Oscar-winner Deborah Oppenheimer, for Into the Arms of Strangers, a documentary on the Kindertransport of Jewish children from central Europe to Britain in the late 1930s, took the long-range view.

" I don't believe in a permanent 'Holocaust fatigue'," she said, pointing to the current French film, Sarah's Key.

Based on Tatiana de Rosnay's 2008 novel, the film centres on the roundup and deportation of French Jews in 1942.

Last updated: 3:18pm, February 17 2011