Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Echoes of the Holocaust

While watching movie trailers for upcoming movies, I ran across this interesting new documentary that apparently came out January 21st. As far as I know, the movie hasn't hit here yet, but when it does, I hope I get the opportunity to see it. Here's a synopsis, courtesy of IMDB:

Watermarks is the story of the champion women swimmers of the legendary Jewish sports club, Hakoah Vienna. Hakoah ("The Strength" in Hebrew) was founded in 1909 in response to the notorious Aryan Paragraph, which forbade Austrian sports clubs from accepting Jewish athletes. Its founders were eager to popularize sport among a community renowned for such great minds as Freud, Mahler and Zweig, but traditionally alien to physical recreation. Hakoah rapidly grew into one of Europe's biggest athletic clubs, while achieving astonishing success in many diverse sports.

In the 1930s Hakoah's best-known triumphs came from its women swimmers, who dominated national competitions in Austria. After the Anschluss, in 1938, the Nazis shut down the club, but the swimmers all managed to flee the country before the war broke out, thanks to an escape operation initiated by Hakoah's functionaries.

Sixty-five years later, director Yaron Zilberman meets the members of the swimming team in their homes around the world, and arranges for them to have a reunion in their old swimming pool in Vienna, a journey that evokes memories of youth, femininity, and strengthens lifelong bonds. Told by the swimmers, now in their eighties, Watermarks is about a group of young girls with a passion to be the best.

[ Click the image for more detail ]

I think it looks and sounds fascinating. As grim as it may sound, I'm fascinated by documentaries and films that take place during the Holocaust. I'm not Jewish nor German myself, but I still find the subject matter interesting. Quickly skimming my DVD collection, I noticed I own a couple of Holocaust-related movies/documentaries, that may prove to be particularly interesting to my gay and lesbian readers, since they both deal with the subject matters of the gay men and women who were killed during the Holocaust. Naturally, I don't have to tell you that they are both excellent and very heartbreaking. The sad reality is that I'm sure there are still people out there today that think "They (the Nazis) had the right idea." And the nuttiest of all? The people who actually are in such denial that they literally believe none of it ever happened. Very ignorant and very sad.

The first film is called Bent and stars Clive Owen, Ian McKellen, Mick Jagger and a very small role played by Jude Law.
Synopsis: Max is gay and as such is sent to Dachau concentration camp under the Nazi regime. He tries to deny he is gay and gets a yellow label (the one for Jews) instead of pink (the one for gays). In camp he falls in love with his fellow prisoner Horst, who wears his pink label with pride.
Comments: Wow. The first time I saw this movie, I thought my throat was going to collapse from trying to hold back the tears. The entire film is very well done, as are the performances. Believe it or not, Mick Jagger plays a drag queen and does a really good job. If the scenes toward the end of the film (if not before) don't bring a lump to your throat, you're just not human. Great, great movie. Try to find it if you can. The movie is based on a play by Martin Sherman. The movie is available at Half.com for under $10.

The other DVD I have is a documentary called Paragraph 175.
Synopsis: "Paragraph 175" refers to the old German penal code concerning homosexuality, which was used to justify the prosecution of gay men during the war (the code ignored lesbians, still considered viable baby-making vessels). By the 1920's, Berlin had become known as a homosexual eden, where gay men and lesbians lived relatively open lives amidst an exciting subculture of artists and intellectuals. With the coming to power of the Nazis, all this changed. Between 1933 and 1945 100,000 men were arrested for homosexuality under Paragraph 175, the sodomy provision of the German penal code dating back to 1871. Some were imprisoned, others were sent to concentration camps. Of the latter, only about 4,000 survived. Today, fewer than ten of these men are known to be living. Five of them have now come forward to tell their stories for the first time.
Comments: The first I heard about this film was when I as working at a video store and I saw it while browsing through a upcoming releases catalog. I ordered a copy to purchase, and was glad that I did. It's very real and sometimes painful to watch because some of the men's pain is still very fresh and deliberately buried, but never forgotten. I found it very fascinating and the stories are priceless. The DVD is available through Half.com for $4 on VHS or $20 on DVD. The DVD contains deleted scenes and other features that you may find interesting.

Though I realize the subject matter is a dire one, I hope that if you do decide to rent, purchase or go see any of these films that they make you appreciate what freedoms you do have, as well as make you think.


Blogger I Am The Walrus said...

It is not uncommon for those who are a member of an oppressed group to find connections with others who were also singled out for the same reasons. Ergo, my useless degree in philosophy is backed up by a designed minor in Holocaust Studies. Thanks for the info on that movie, I hadn't heard about it before...

Tuesday, February 15, 2005 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger Kirkkitsch said...

Good point. At the risk of sounding like one of the Brady's after dad "enlightened" them with one of his no-brainers, I never thought of it that way before. It's true though.

Ooh, really? You minored in Holocaust Studies? Interesting! I bet that was really fascinating. Personally, I had no idea until watching these movies that the gay men and women were actually treated WORSE (I can't imagine) than the Jewish men and women. I was always under the impression that the Nazis considered the Jews the most loathsome of all.

I'm glad I was able to turn you on to something you hadn't heard about. :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2005 4:46:00 AM  

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