Distributed by First Run/Icarus Films, 32 Court St., 21st Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201; 800-876-1710
Directed by Amir Bar-Lev
VHS, color, 88 min.
History, Political Science
Date Entered: 11/09/2018Reviewed by Michael Fein, Coordinator of Library Services, Central Virginia Community College, Lynchburg, VA
Jan Wiener and his good friend Arnost Lustig are both Czech Jews who survived the Holocaust, only to be enslaved by Communism after the War. Eventually, both left their homeland to come to America, where they met. Lustig, who is an author of some renown an Auschwitz survivor, is fascinated by Wiener's tough, combative spirit as well as his story of how he left Prague and eventually served in the Royal Air Force. They decide to retrace Jan's journey. However, the journey goes unfinished as Jan, because of a host of reasons, decides to stop the filming. The friends, now estranged, return to the U.S.
The discussions the two have regarding the Nazis, the Communists, human responsibility, etc. as they visit various places in Prague and the Czech Republic, Slovenia, and Italy are a real treat. Jan was never in the Nazi camps, but was imprisoned in the 1950s by the Communists. Arnost, who was in the death camps, was also a member of the Communist Party. Their differing views on events lead to lively discussions. Interspersed in these reminiscences are still photos of both men's families and archival film footage and newsreels, some of which appear to be rare, or at least little-known in the West. One of the most fascinating film sequences was of the Czech Army mobilizing to repulse the German invasion, only to be betrayed by the Munich Agreement in 1938. The content of this excellent production is hard to categorize: it is a biography, a War memoir, Holocaust survival story, a critique of Communism, as well as a look at friendship.
This award-winning production had no perceived flaws. The picture quality was very professional. The sound was clear with voices easy to understand and the music well-suited to the scenes depicted and not overwhelming. Graphics were clear and easy to read as were the subtitles. Not all libraries will want, or need, this work. However, for those wishing a first-hand account of some (to us) little-known aspects of the Holocaust, the Second World War, and Communism, this excellent production is highly recommended.
Film has its own Web site: www.fighterfilm.com