"Shoah" was presented to cast as a "research material".


In the New York Times of Sunday, November 4, 2001, Bernard Weinraub presents a review of "Uprising".  In that review, Mr. Weinraub tells us:


The cast members were supplied with books and other research materials and shown films like "Shoah", Claude Lanzmann's 1985 documentary about the Holocaust.


In "Shoah", director Lanzmann gets lots of great film footage, but then, unfortunately, he lets his prejudice get the better of him. When I view the film footage presented in "Shoah" I find a much different meaning than the explanation that gets forced upon the viewer by Lanzmann. I know the language, I know the cultural background of the people speaking, and I know the historical context, so when I view this footage of interviews of Poles, my reaction is to be deeply moved by the heart expressed by many of the speakers. But Mr. Lanzmann came in as a foreigner, with an intention that included using Poles to testify unwittingly against themselves. While he got naive and full cooperation from these unsuspecting common people, he did not get the smoking gun he had hoped for. Rather than adjust his views, Mr. Lanzman choose to do something that is contrary to the training of all film makers: where-as film schools teach that a director must "show" the message, not say it, Lanzmann actually inserts himself into the film with an editorial which explicitly tells the viewer how to interpret what is being seen. And, unfortunately for the cause of truth, since Lanzmann is the master of all this great film footage, the audience assumes he should be believed, and the audience falls in line with accepting his prejudice.

"Shoah" is a completely different movie if you leave Lanzmann's prejudice out and just listen, in a language sensitive and culturally sensitive way, to what the Poles are saying. Much can get twisted in translation; for example, there is one scene where a farmer laughs; a viewer of that scene might easily assume the farmer is laughing at the plight of the Jews. But for a viewer who actually speakes the Polish language, it is clear that in this scene the farmer is laughing at the guards who got out-witted because the farmer succeeded in bringing water to the train and the guards didn't catch him. This is an example of a one-hundred-eighty degree difference between what is actually going on and what Lanzmann let's the viewer believe. But Lanzmann's prejudices became enshrined as fact, and those prejudiced "facts" are presented to cast members in the making of the next film.

Each layer of misrepresentation lays the foundation for another layer of misrepresentation.


Alexander Danel