I attended a screening of Defiance on Thursday night as part of the week long observance of the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust will focus on a central theme: “The Legacy of Survival" at the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan. The week's focus is around "lessons that the survivors will pass on to succeeding generations. With fewer survivors alive to tell their stories, it is of primary importance to share this legacy with people everywhere to encourage respect for diversity and human rights for generations to come." I went with a friend that had told me about the screening and although I had seen Defiance when it was first released, I thought it would be a good opportunity to visit the U.N. and see an exhibit there. We got there a little early so we wondered the main lobby area where a group of partitions separated different multimedia exhibits. The sections depicted the theme of Holocaust survivors passing on their historical stories to new generations. There was a combination of written word and photographs accompanied by small flat screen televisions of video. Each video consisted of a separate family story. From interviews with the survivors to interviews with the survivor's grandchildren, they told of how their family member's survival stories and who they are because of them influenced not just the survivors but their succeeding family members. The emphasis was of course on the importance of oral related history and the vital need to never forget. What struck me most was the kind of effect family members credited to their parents or grandparents, whether it be a better understanding of who they were or the Holocaust itself or a even musical influence. I thought the videos had weight to them.
Defiance had weight too and it was interesting to attend a screening at the United Nations. The Paramount Pictures feature is about Jewish partisans battling the Nazis in Belarus, starring Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber. The movie is based the book of the same name and chronicles a true story of survival. The book was written by Holocaust scholar and survivor Nechama Tec and was directed by Edward Zwick.
What I thought the screening lacked was a post panel discussion that many film screenings around a festival or series like this often includes. Instead the film's producer and a family member of the characters from the film were pointed out in the audience pre screening and then post screening stood up at the front where audience members could approach them, shake hands, chat, sign the book, etc. That's nice but I definitely got more information from the Directors Guild of America's showing I had attended around the film's release date. I guess I expected more from a U.N. event. In the end I was more impressed with the lobby exhibit than I was the film showing I had gone there for. It won't stop me from accepting another United Nations invitation but as the last film in the series there could have been a little more content around the screening itself.