Menu JTA Search

Many Perplexed by German Failure to Push Jewish Film for Oscar Nod

SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING

Germany has decided not to enter a German-produced Holocaust-theme film, “Europa, Europa,” for Academy Award consideration, despite international acclaim for the unusual film about a Jew who survives the war among Nazi army ranks.

The refusal has astonished and enraged the film’s writer and director, Agnieska Holland, as well as the Hollywood movie colony.

“Europa, Europa” is said to be a true story, based on the wartime experiences of Solomon Perel, now 65 and living in Israel.

Perel survived the Holocaust by hiding his Jewish identity in Poland and ended up fighting in the German army and attending an elite school for Hitler Youth. He was saved from being shot by the Soviets after their capture of Berlin by his brother, who spent the war in a Nazi concentration camp.

Holland, a native of Poland whose father is Jewish, shot the film almost entirely in German, with a German producer as well as a mostly German cast and crew.

Under academy rules, it would be up to Germany to enter the film in the Oscar race, but it has not done so, according to reports in The New York Times and the entertainment trade magazine Variety.

The reason, an angry Holland told the Times, is that the Germans “hate this subject, they really hate it.”

“I have many German friends, but I was really shocked at how the minds of the people changed after unification,” she said. “The arrogance and xenophobia which was hidden is now official.

“I cannot imagine making a movie in Germany,” she said. “They felt guilty many, many years after the war, but it was official guilt. The time is over. This generation hates all those people who put them through the official guilt. What is left is arrogance and stupidity. My presence and my cinema is an offense to these people.”

The German Export Film Union, whose committee is responsible for selecting its country’s entry, said in a statement that no German film in 1991 was good enough to qualify as an Academy Award nominee.

A film union member was quoted as calling the movie “junk” and the union’s head described “Europa, Europa” as “an embarrassment.”

Orion Classics, the American distributor of the film, has sent letters to academy members urging them, in effect, to take the film out of the foreign-language category and to nominate it in the more prestigious general competition for best picture, director and screenplay.

NEXT STORY