This timely documentary is essential viewing for 1) anyone with a serious interest in film, 2) anyone interested in the post war politics that led to the suppression of some extraordinary Nazi death camp documentation and 3) anyone brave enough to view some of the most distressing images of the Holocaust ever captured on film.
In 1945, producer Sidney Bernstein and director Alfred Hitchcock (yes, you read that correctly) were commissioned to oversee German Concentration Camps Factual Survey – a film which was to contain everything in the liberated death camps that would “prove this actually happened”. This documentary was shot, scripted and partially edited, but the project was ultimately shelved by a Foreign Office who ruled it “inconvenient”, given rapidly changing post war political considerations, such as the rise of Zionism and the need for Germany as an ally against the Soviets.
The complete film, missing for several decades, has subsequently been rediscovered and finished to Bernstein and Hitchcock’s original specifications by Imperial War Museum scholars. It will screen at the London Film Festival next month, but in the meantime Night Will Fall, director Andre Singer’s companion piece, explains the story behind the making of this film, and provides interviews and context for its truly horrifying footage.
Singer is the ideal choice to oversee a project like this, given his involvement in The Act of Killing (a documentary I haven’t had the courage to watch yet, in spite of its near universal acclaim). The result is a sober and fascinating piece of work. Be warned – the imagery on display here is beyond shocking and will scar your memory forever. However, this remains a vitally important and profoundly relevant film as, to quote Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian, it “exposes once again the obscenity of Holocaust denial”. Given recent current events, I couldn’t put it more eloquently than that.