Felix Moeller is at it again. This German filmmaker and documentarian (I believe he is German but can find no city of birth listed for him anywhere) who in 2010 gave us the interesting documentary, Harlan -- In the Shadow of Jew Süss (all about the director of Jew Süss, one of the more infamous anti-Semitic German films made during World War II), has now gifted us with an even more interesting and important documentary that sheds light on the output of Nazi cinema during this fraught time.
FORBIDDEN FILMS: The Hidden Legacy of Nazi Film, tackles the what, why and how of this "charged" cinema. As Moeller tells us at the start of his doc, "Between 1933 and 1945, 1200 feature films were made in Germany. After the war, the Allies banned 300 of these as 'propaganda,' and 40 of them remain restricted today." Why this is so, and what could or should be done about it is Moeller's subject, and he offers up a number of worthwhile viewpoints -- from damn-the-torpedoes-and-just-show-these-films to a philosophy of keep-them-censored to something in between.
Emile Jannings (shown far left, of The Blue Angel fame) and his role in Uncle Krüger, and especially an actor less known to us Americans named Heinrich George, shown near left. Perhaps the most interesting portion of the film is devoted to a movie titled I Accuse, and how it was made to pave the way for the Nazi's use of euthanasia.
Joseph Goebbels perfectly understood how movies could be the state's most effective form of propaganda, and he saw to it that this propaganda was created and executed on a populace that embraced it whole-hog -- a reaction not unlike America's to the recent Clint Eastwood movie, American Sniper. Back in the time of WWII, audiences of all ages flocked to film the way they do today to TV and (for younger folks, at least) the internet. Give uninformed and somewhat frightened audiences the chance to root for their own country -- whatever foul endeavor in which it might be engaged -- and you can be certain the majority will do just that. (Shown below is the archive where these Nazi films are currently kept.)
Zeitgeist Films and running 94 minutes -- opens up so many disparate but necessary avenues of thought about what censorship is and when, if ever, it might be worthwhile, that it's a must-see. How very fine it is that this documentary (along with three screenings of the complete Jew Süss) will make its theatrical debut this Wednesday, May 13, at New York City's Film Forum, with free admission for all audiences -- including the special screenings of Jew Süss -- on a first-come/first served basis for its entire one-week run. This is thanks to both the Ostrovsky Family Fund and to the Joan S. Constantiner Fund for Jewish and Holocaust Films.