To sum it up in simple terms, Genocide is a 1981 documentary film about the holocaust. Truth be told, it’s much more than that. In my honest opinion, it’s quite possibly the best documentary ever made. I applaud it for its’ realism, emotion, and stripped down narrative. Although a winner of an Academy award, I feel it’s still greatly unappreciated. When compared with works like Shoah, it’s easy to see why.
The film itself, begins with an introduction by Simon Wiesenthal. For those of you unfamiliar with who he might be, I’ll provide a brief explanation. Wiesenthal, is more than just a holocaust survivor, he is a harbinger of retribution. A man who made it his life mission, to hunt down the guilty. In doing so, he brought over 1000 Nazi war criminals to justice. Within the first few moments of his introduction, he reminds us that we should never forget what he, and so many others went through.
The visual narrative of the film, as I mentioned before, is very basic. There are no interviews or dramatizations, just the facts. Still photography, paintings and stock footage, are the means to tell the story. Photographs display life before, during and after the holocaust. Accompanied by newsreel footage, we’re shown a collage of history in motion. Paintings from survivors come into play as well, to show us the horror from their own perspective. I’ve always found this method of storytelling to be simple, but effective to establishing the point.
It’s what we hear however, that makes this documentary the masterpiece it truly is. The narration is split between two voices. The first, is the legendary voice of the Mercury theatre himself, Orson Welles. His voice, provides the exposition of the facts. Much like he did with many of his films, be takes on the roll of the storyteller. His was the legendary voice, that frightened a nation with his broadcast of War Of The Worlds. Now, his voice tells the world of a true story. A story of inhumanity, perseverance, and quite possibly, the darkest chapter in human history.
The second voice, belongs to legendary actress Elizabeth Taylor. She serves as the voice of witness. She reads accounts of survivors, eyewitnesses, and even poetry written about the events that occurred. Her performance in her narration, is quite possibly the best performance, that she’s ever given. At times, she completely throws every bit of emotion into the dialogue she’s reading. I read one critics review, where they complained this was to over the top. I could not disagree more, her narration reminds us that those who dies where actual human beings. Human beings, who went through the most unimaginable suffering of all time. She speaks for the dead, who cant speak for themselves.
In my honest opinion, films like these are extremely important. Our modern world has gone grown cold, and cynical. To paraphrase a book I once read many years ago, “We must remember, not to forget.”