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Holocaust themes featured in new Italian-produced films

ROME, Feb. 11 (JTA) — Two new Italian films on Holocaust themes – – an epic drama based on fact and a documentary — are making headlines in Italy. Monday night marked the world premiere of “La Tregua,” or The Truce, a film based on the book by Holocaust survivor Primo Levi, recounting his return journey to Italy after Auschwitz. Directed by Francesco Rosi and starring American actor John Turturro in the role of Levi, the film premiered in Levi’s hometown, Turin, just two months before the 10th anniversary of his suicide. A conference about Levi and his work, entitled “Truce and Conflict,” was also held in Turin to mark the anniversary. The epic-style film, much of it shot on location, tells how Levi and other Italian Auschwitz survivors made it back to their homes from the Soviet Union, where they were taken after Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army. “This is a film made to move people as well as to entertain them, so they don’t forget,” Rosi said at the gala premiere. “It is for the young, as Primo Levi always said.” The premiere was attended by members of Levi’s family as well as by people from the worlds of cinema, government, culture and business. Representatives of the Jewish community were also in attendance, as was Israel’s ambassador. Meanwhile, the documentary “Memoria,” or Memory, based on interviews of Italian Holocaust survivors, was the only Italian film selected to be shown at the Berlin International Film Festival, which runs Feb. 13-24. The film, directed by Ruggero Gabbai, is a project sponsored by the Milan-based Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation, Italy’s only institution dedicated to researching the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and racism. The producers sought out the 90 or so living survivors of the 8,500 Italian Jews who were deported to Nazi death camps and recorded their testimony in the very places were they were imprisoned or persecuted in Italy as well as at Auschwitz. “What makes this project unique is the fact that the protagonists bear witness at the actual places where the events happened,” the producers said.