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Why does Hollywood love the Holocaust? Haaretz

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Last update – 11:26 11/02/2009  By Rebecca Spence, The Forward

With “The Reader” garnering five Oscar nominations, and just as many Holocaust-related films playing this winter, Hollywood’s long-simmering romance with one of the greatest tragedies in human history is reaching a fever pitch. Even a former official of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has a certain fatigue.

“I find myself wanting to take my wife out to a non-Holocaust film, and everything is touching on the Holocaust,” said Michael Berenbaum, who now teaches in Los Angeles at the American Jewish University.

Indeed, “The Reader,” “Defiance,” “Valkyrie,” “Adam Resurrected” and the “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” all touch in some way – while not necessarily directly – on the slaughter of the 6 million. In view of this recent spate of films, how to explain Hollywood’s continuing fascination with the Holocaust?

The answer is not a simple one. In interviews with the Forward, film directors and scholars offered a wide range of views on what compels the movie business to grapple with the myriad facets of Holocaust history, and the myriad lives shaped by the Holocaust’s indignities. Are the reasons primarily commercial? Artistic? Moral? […]

In a January 9 opinion piece in the pages of this newspaper, historian Deborah Lipstadt warned of the dangers of romanticizing the Holocaust. Parsing the case of the recently debunked Holocaust memoir “Angel at the Fence,” which turned out to be fiction, Lipstadt mused on what led publishers and film producers to ignore the warning signs that Herman Rosenblat’s story was utterly implausible. “They all seemingly wanted a story that made the Holocaust heartwarming, even though, as Waltzer aptly put it, the ‘Holocaust experience is not heartwarming, it is heart rending,'” Lipstadt wrote, referring to historian Ken Waltzer. […]

But while seminal films such as “Schindler’s List” (1993) – which many credit with paving the way for other Holocaust films ? grossed more than $300 million worldwide and about $96 million domestically, there are plenty of examples of Holocaust films that proved unlucrative. Even “The Reader,” with its cache of Academy Award nominations, has grossed just under $13 million domestically so far. The film, which has seen almost no box office bump from the Oscars race, cost some $32 million to make.

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Written by morris

February 13, 2009 at 11:54 pm

Posted in Haaretz, holocaust

Tagged with ,

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