Director of film festival discusses Holocaust

Director of film festival discusses Holocaust

By Melissa Kenyon

Sara Rubin could not hold back her personal interest in the Holocaust in a lecture last Wednesday in Snell Library.

“How could I not feel drawn to the Holocaust, being Jewish and growing up in the second half of the 20th century?” said Rubin, executive director of the Boston Jewish Film Festival, as she introduced her presentation, “Changing Trends in Cinematic Representation of the Holocaust.” The event was part of the “Holocaust Memory and Representation” lectures.

Rubin, who has held her position for the past 10 years, said although she has no Holocaust survivors in her family, she has always been intrigued by the subject because of her Jewish heritage.

Film, she said, has become her means of exploring this subject.

Rubin’s lecture touched on the different classifications of Holocaust films – from testimony and survivor films to second-generation accounts and even humorous productions that mock Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party.

While many great Holocaust films can go undiscovered for years, other films “break ground at the time they are made,” she said.

Rubin discussed some of these groundbreaking films and showed a clip of the 2006 film, “I Only Wanted to Live.” This film includes testimony from survivors about their schooling experiences, despite strict laws prohibiting Jews from pursuing an education, serving in the military or marrying non-Jews.

Hoping to contradict what she calls the “longtime stereotype of the Jew being led to slaughter,” Rubin also showed a clip of Claude Lanzmann’s 2001 film “Sobibor,” which tells of the 600 Jews who overthrew a Nazi concentration camp in 1943.

Rubin said these films and others in the genre have been successful in engaging audiences.

“But will people continue to turn out for these films? That is the biggest question,” she said. “If the films are well made enough and well backed enough, I believe they will.”

Senior communications major Laura Smalec said she would go to similar films, adding the presentation “really propels me to go to the Boston Jewish Film Festival in the future.”

Inez Hedges, a professor of French, German and cinema studies at Northeastern and the Bernard Stotsky Professor of Jewish Historical and Cultural Studies, shared the floor with Rubin. In her presentation, “Deportation from Drancy: France and the Shoah.” She focused on the Holocaust as it affected France, through photographs, art and monuments.

Drancy, a transit camp outside Paris, was a stopping point for more than 73,000 Jews on their way to death camps like Auschwitz, Hedges said.

Hedges said the German government tried to convince the public the Jews in Drancy were “well-fed and happy” through propaganda photographs.

She contrasted these images with sketches by Georges Horan, a Drancy inmate, are closer to the reality of camp life.

“I thought the artwork from the camps was really interesting,” junior American Sign Language major Jaime Howard said after the presentation. “It’s not something I would have thought of as an area of study.”

Hedges said novels and films need to represent Drancy as they have represented other concentration camps like Auschwitz, before it can be tackled as a subject for study.

“The trauma of Drancy is something that needs to be talked about,” she said.

Howard said students should know more about Drancy and was glad many students attended the lecture.

“It’s something people need to hear more about, so I was excited that it was so packed,” Howard said. “It means that people were really interested.”

Leave a Reply