The 81st Blow (1975)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB

Original title:  Ha-Makah Hashmonim V’Echad

Israel, 1975.  Ghetto Fighters House.  Screenplay by Haim Gouri.  Produced by David Bergman, Jacques Ehrlich, Haim Gouri, .  Music by .  Film Editing by Jacques Ehrlich, .  

The title refers to the tragic story of a boy who was given eighty blows by a Nazi officer while living in a Jewish ghetto; when he later told his tale to the people he met in Israel after his miraculous survival, he declared that their disbelief in his story was the eighty-first blow. This absorbing documentary chronicles the years leading up to the Holocaust and uses tons of stock footage to show the shift in culture in Germany and its subsequently occupied neighbours, during which Jews were declared enemies of European life. Propaganda is followed by ghettoization which is followed by internment camps, all of it narrated in voice over (and, the film’s only flaw, with monotoned narration set to music) while only actual footage from the period is screened. It’s a terrific historical resource because this film deals quite a lot with aspects of history that have been dramatized in other films (The Pianist comes to mind immediately), but the original footage is rarely seen.

Academy Award Nomination:  Best Documentary Feature

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