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Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust
Imaginary Witness Hollywood and the Holocaust
Actors: Gene Hackman, Norma Barzman, Jack Benny, Michael Berenbaum, Robert Berger
Director: Daniel Anker
Genres: Special Interests, Educational, Documentary
NR     2009     1hr 32min

"a devastating, impressively reflective documentary" -The New York Times Featuring interviews with Steven Spielberg, Sidney Lumet and other prominent filmmakers and historians, Imaginary Witness examines Hollywood's attitu...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Gene Hackman, Norma Barzman, Jack Benny, Michael Berenbaum, Robert Berger
Director: Daniel Anker
Creators: Dyanna Taylor, Daniel Anker, Diana Holtzberg, Ellin Baumel, Jan Rofekamp, Nate Smith, Susan Kim
Genres: Special Interests, Educational, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Art & Artists, Educational, Documentary
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 01/13/2009
Original Release Date: 01/01/2004
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2004
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 1hr 32min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 3
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

"Imaginary Witness ... Hollywood & the Holocaust ... KOCH Lo
J. Lovins | Missouri-USA | 12/04/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Koch Lorber Films presents "IMAGINARY WITNESS: HOLLYWOOD AND THE HOLOCAUST" (25 December 2007) (92 mins/B&W/Color) (Dolby Digital) --- This is an expertly made documentary on Hollywood, not just how they handled one topic, but how they are embroiled in current politics --- There will be some surprises to some moviegoers and clips from some relatively unknown gems, some of which I have never seen and will now seek out! --- Otherwise, I have to give this documentary a big thumbs up --- Narrated by Gene Hackman and featuring a remarkable series of clips and interviews, IMAGINARY WITNESS is a revelation, not least for its large inclusion of material from BEFORE the Holocaust even happened, including American newsreel footage of Nazi book burning that treat it like a fraternity prank and pre-war Hollywood films in which characters refer to Jews as non Aryans --- This is one documentary not to be missed.

Under the production staff of:
Daniel Anker Director, Producer
Andrew Barrett Score Composer
Ellin Baumel Producer
Diana Holtzberg Executive Producer
Tom Hurwitz Cinematographer
Susan Kim Co-producer
Jan Rofekamp Executive Producer
Nancy Schreiber Cinematographer
Brad Shaw Editor

Story line and plot, This is what Hollywood needed to do -and what not- to expose Nazi Germany's intentions --- It is a well-documented film with great interviews and original footage to prove that cinema can be used to fight for the right and wrong of world events --- In my book this is a great film to illustrate how everyone turned their back on what Hitler was doing against the Judaism --- Nevermore, please --- Some of the raw footage is missing when American troops discovered the death camps --- However, the narration accomplished the feelings of those who were watching back then --- Produced for the cable television network American Movie Classics, Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust was premiered at the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival.

the cast includes:
Gene Hackman ... Narrator
Ben Kingsley
Liam Neeson
Norma Barzman ... Herself
Michael Berenbaum ... Himself
Robert Berger ... Himself
Tom Brokaw ... Himself (voice) (archive footage)
Robert Clary ... Himself
Dan Curtis ... Himself
Michael Dunn ... (archive footage)
Stanley Frazen ... Himself
Neal Gabler ... Himself
Annette Insdorf ... Herself )
Sidney Lumet ... Himself
Branko Lustig ... Himself
Abby Mann ... Himself
Gene Reynolds ... Himself
Sharon Rivo ... Herself
Irene Sachs
Vincent Sherman ... Himself
Steven Spielberg ... Himself
Martin Starger ... Himself
Rod Steiger ... Himself
George Stevens Jr. ... Himself
Malvin Wald ... Himself
Fritz Weaver ... Himself

Great job by Koch Lorber Films --- looking forward to more high quality titles from the International Collection Film Market --- order your copy now from Amazon or Koch Vision where there are plenty of copies available on DVD, stay tuned once again for top notch releases --- where they are experts in releasing long forgotten films and treasures to the collector.

Total Time: 92 mins on DVD ~ KOCH Lorber Films ~ (01/13/2009)"
Brilliant and Compelling Documentary on American Filmmakers
Steven I. Ramm | Phila, PA USA | 12/26/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Remember when AMC (formerly American Movie Classics) used to actually show movies (and without commercials)? This DVD takes us back to 2004 when, like Turner Movie Classics, the cable channel showed quality films as well as specially produced documentaries. Thanks to Koch and their Koch Lorber Films division, the superb film has a new life. And it belongs in every 20th century history course - in high school as well as college - as well as every film-making course.

The 92-minute film - directed by Daniel Anker, and narrated by Gene Hackman - begins years before the Holocaust with Warner Brothers' films - many recently reissued as part of their "Gangster" series - on prejudice against the Jews in the US. And then we are up to Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" and Jack Benny as Hitler in "To Be Or Not To Be".

Then comes the Holocaust and the end of World War II. But it isn't until President Eisenhower sends 16 Hollywood moguls to Germany to see the horrors in the concentration camps, that films start to be made to educate Americans about the atrocities and tell the story.

With interviews with stars and Directors, Producers and scriptwriters and film historians (all listed in an earlier review on this site, so I won't list again), and SIGNIFICANT footage from the more recent films and TV mini-series (most notably the 30-hour-long "War and Remembrance" (1988), the story is graphically told. I did not remember how graphic some of the recreated scenes in the "W&R" series was, but it really grabs you and won't let go.

With the cooperation of the "A" list of Hollywood directing and producing community, the is certainly the best documentary on the subject I have seen and the video and film clips are in pristine condition.

There are no special features, but you'll be thinking about the scenes you've seen for hours after you've turned off your TV.


Steve Ramm
"Anything Phonographic"

How we view the Holocaust
Westley | Stuck in my head | 01/07/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)

""Imaginary Witness" is an interesting although somewhat slight documentary about how Hollywood films have dealt with the Holocaust. The documentary starts with the 1920s and discusses the uneasy relationship between Hollywood studios, which were run largely by Jewish Americans, and Germany, which was an eager consumer of films, contributing up to 10% of American film studio's grosses. The Jewish-led studios were nervous about offending Germany while also wanting to avoid anti-semitism in the United States and accusations of bias, so negative depictions of Germany and later Hitler were rare in Hollywood films until the U.S. entered WWII.

Even during the war, films often avoided addressing issues of the Holocaust directly; for example, one of the most daring anti-Nazi films of the time, "The Mortal Storm," never used the term "Jew" at all! After the war, the studio heads toured Germany and filmed the death camps, playing the footage as newsreels before films. At that point, they really lead the way in terms of speaking of the Holocaust, yet it would be decades before Hollywood films tackled the topic fully. Using interviews with top Hollywood filmmakers such as Sidney Lumet and Steve Spielberg, "Imaginary Witness" explores the reasons for this lag.

Although there have been dozens of documentaries in recent years that have explored seemingly more "important" aspects of the Holocaust, "Imaginary Witness" makes an intriguing argument. To wit, most American's understanding of the Holocaust is vis a vis films! How many of us think of "Schindler's List," for example, when we think of Nazi atrocities? For many of us, our personal connections to the Holocaust are through Hollywood films. The newsreel footage shows nameless thousands of victims, but our connection is stronger to someone like Meryl Streep's character in "Sophie's Choice" because we know her story. The specific is always more powerful than the general, and Hollywood films have, for better or worse, usually supplied our "specifics" with regard to the Holocaust. I ended up learning a great deal more from this documentary than I anticipated, even though I had seen most of the Hollywood films it discusses - "Imaginary Witness" is a well-crafted documentary.