Spiel­berg says Schindler’s List even more rel­e­vant to­day

Winnipeg Free Press - - ARTS LIFE - JAYME DEERWESTER

DIREC­TOR Steven Spiel­berg says his Os­car-win­ning Holo­caust drama Schindler’s List holds more rel­e­vance on its 25th an­niver­sary than when it first came out in 1993.

“I think there’s even more at stake than there was back then,” he told NBC News an­chor Lester Holt in an in­ter­view pub­lished Wed­nes­day.

The film, which won seven Os­cars at the 1994 Academy Awards, in­clud­ing best pic­ture and direc­tor, re­turns to the­atres less than two months af­ter Robert Bow­ers, 46, opened fire in Pitts­burgh’s Tree of Life Sy­n­a­gogue, killing 11 wor­ship­pers and wound­ing six oth­ers.

It wasn’t an iso­lated in­ci­dent: the FBI says hate crimes surged 17 per cent in 2017, in­clud­ing a spike in anti-Semitic at­tacks.

“When col­lec­tive hate or­ga­nizes and gets in­dus­tri­al­ized, then geno­cide fol­lows,” Spiel­berg warned. “We have to take it more se­ri­ously to­day than I think we have had to take it in a gen­er­a­tion.”

Schindler’s List drew its ti­tle name from a list of Jews saved from Nazi death camps by Ger­man busi­ness­man Oskar Schindler. He shmoozed the lo­cal party of­fi­cials into let­ting him bring them to his Krakow enamel fac­tory, where they re­ceived food and more hu­mane treat­ment. In 1944, as the Red Army made its way into Poland, Schindler evac­u­ated his work­ers to a safer fa­cil­ity in what is now the Czech Repub­lic. Ul­ti­mately, 1,200 Jews sur­vived the war due to his ef­forts.

Schindler, who died in 1974, is buried in Is­rael, where he and wife Em­i­lie hold the hon­our of Righ­teous Among the Na­tions. The state of Is­rael uses the des­ig­na­tion to rec­og­nize non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis.

Dur­ing the in­ter­view, Spiel­berg also ex­plained his de­ci­sion to shoot nearly the en­tire film in black and white, rather than go­ing along with the stu­dio’s idea to re­lease it that way the­atri­cally but of­fer a colour ver­sion for home video.

“I don’t know the Holo­caust in colour. I wasn’t around then,” he told Holt.

“But I’ve seen doc­u­men­taries on the Holo­caust. They’re all shot in black and white. That’s my only ref­er­ence point. I wanted it to feel real.”

Holt asked him about the sym­bol­ism be­hind the lit­tle girl in the red coat, one of the few spots of colour in the film.

“In (Thomas Ke­neally’s) book, Schindler couldn’t get over the fact that a lit­tle girl was walk­ing dur­ing the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto,” Spiel­berg re­counted. “While ev­ery­one was be­ing put on trucks or shot in the street, one lit­tle girl in a red, red coat was be­ing ig­nored by the SS.”

To the direc­tor, that scene came to sym­bol­ize world lead­ers turn­ing a blind eye to in­dus­tri­al­ized mur­der. “To me, that meant that Roo­sevelt and Eisen­hower — and prob­a­bly Stalin and Churchill — knew about the Holo­caust... and did noth­ing to stop it. It was al­most as though the Holo­caust it­self was wear­ing red.”

Spiel­berg, who would win an­other best-direc­tor Os­car for Sav­ing Pri­vate Ryan five years later, says Schindler still tops all his other achieve­ments.

“I don’t think I’ll ever do any­thing as im­por­tant,” he said. “So this, for me, is some­thing that I will al­ways be proud­est of.”

The movie also in­spired him to es­tab­lish the USC Shoah Foun­da­tion at his alma mater, the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. The project has col­lected the tes­ti­mony of more than 55,000 sur­vivors and wit­nesses to the Holo­caust as well as other atroc­i­ties.

“It wouldn’t have hap­pened with­out Schindler’s List,” he in­sists.

“The Shoah Foun­da­tion wouldn’t ex­ist.”

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

Direc­tor Steven Spiel­berg (left) and ac­tor Liam Nee­son (right) on the set of Schindler’s List.

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