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LAST DAYS, THE

SYNOPSIS:
This is the story of the Jews of Hungary who were part of Hitler’s Final Solution even when his war seemed inevitably lost - militarily. It was ‘the last days’ of the war and the speed and brutality with which the Nazis went about collecting, transporting and exterminating the Jews from Hungary was unparalleled. A total of 620,000 men, women and children of the Hungarian Jewish community were lost, most of them in the nine months prior to the liberation of Hungary in early 1945. The story is told through five of the survivors, Hungarian Jews who are all now living in the US. Tom Lantos is the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to Congress; Renee Firestone is a lecturer on the Holocaust and human rights; Alice Lok Cahana is a highly regarded artist; Bill Basch is a retired fashion industry executive; Irene Zisblatt is a self-made businesswoman. The film was shot on 35 mm on locations in the US, Europe and the Ukraine (formerly Hungary) and contains exceptional (and harrowing) archival footage discovered during research.

"The Last Days is unutterably sad and moving - as well as absolutely relevant and pertinent while Serbs are exterminating Albanians in Kosovo. It is a remarkable achievement to bring a new perspective to the Holocaust considering how many other documentary makers have travelled on this sorry road. Perhaps the most powerful tools that Moll uses are his five subjects, through whom we relive the grisly, unimaginably inhuman nightmare. And not just because their voices, not a narrator’s, details the story for us, but because we go back with them, these well padded grandparents from comfortable homes, to the very places where they were ripped out of an existence, and along to the very spot where their families and fellow Jews were slaughtered, the concentration camps of Poland and Germany. We are there by their side as they revisit the points of despair and we learn first hand how they managed to retain their sanity, their faith and their humanity. Hans Zimmer has created a sensitive and collaborative score which provides an emotive blanket for our sensations. Some moments are haunting, some illuminating and the whole film begs to be seen. Many will weep, and so we should."
Andrew L. Urban

"One might have thought that in terms of the Holocaust, we've seen it all. But then, that's like saying that all war stories are the same. The Last Days is an extraordinary film, not only for its emotional power, which is to be expected, but because of its intelligence and the way in which director James Moll gives one a fascinating insight into the final moments of Hitler's barbaric Final Solution. Yet it's not a film that necessarily dwells on this; in what emerges as the moving segments of the film, Moll allows us to explore what has become of these five survivors. Despite the horrors they went through, what we ultimately end up with, is a beautifully optimistic work, and a work filled with rich humanity. Why is it that we remain so fascinated by these events? Surely, some insist, it's better to bury the past? Of course, such comments are absurd, considering, say, the chilling parallels between the Holocaust and recent events in Kosovo. Should we remember the past? Absolutely! The future is what we make it, and The Last Days is the kind of film that proves this. Amidst the barbarism of the Final Solution (which was more important to Hitler than winning the war), the film's constant theme is that of family and hope. From loss and destruction, the survivors interviewed have rebuilt their lives, focussing on the strength they gain from their families and sense of nurturing. These last sequences are amongst the most heart wrenching in the film, as are those when a few of the survivors return to their original homes and the death camps. The Last Days is an astonishing work, one highly deserving of its Academy Award. The subject matter may indeed seem, on the surface, to be familiar, but its execution is original."
Paul Fischer

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

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See Andrew L. Urban's interview with

JAMES MOLL

TRAILER

SOFCOM MOVIE TIMES

THE LAST DAYS (M 15+)
(US)

DOCUMENTARY

DIRECTOR: James Moll

PRODUCERS: June Beallor, Ken Lipper

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Steven Spielberg & The Shoah Foundation

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Harris Done

EDITOR: James Moll

MUSIC: Hans Zimmerman

RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace Films

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 15, 1999 Sydney & Melbourne; other states to follow

AWARDS: Best Documentary, Academy Awards, 1999.

Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation was founded in 1994 by Steven Spielberg, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to videotaping and archiving interviews of Holocaust survivors all over the world. As at mid 1999, more than 50,000 videotaped interviews in 57 countries and 31 languages have been gathered.







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