Filmmakers for the Prosecution – movie review


Kino Lorber
Reviewed for and, linked from Rotten Tomatoes by Harvey Karten.
Director: Jean-Christophe Klotz
Screenwriter: Jean-Christophe Klotz
Cast: Budd Schulberg, Niklas Frank, Yves Beigbeder, Sylvie Lindeperb, Axel Fischer, Alexander Zöller,Stuart Liebman
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 1/21/23
Opens: January 27, 2022

While Hitler’s actions destroyed his own country and led to the death of tens of millions in war, his prosecution of the Holocaust is considered by many to be the greatest crime against innocent persons in history. The perpetrators, those high up in command like his propaganda minister and those responsible for the horror of the death camps, should have been drawn and quartered, painful deaths which, even then, could not begin to afford them what they deserved. Instead, they were given a fair trial lasting months in the German city of Nuremberg headed by the Chief Justice of the United States, resulting in ten death sentences and a bevy of other judgments from acquittal to a few years to life. As though these punishments might be considered trivial enough when compared to the mission of Hitler’s chiefs, the idea of punishing Germany for starting the war would soon fade, as the United States, intent on turning Germany into an ally rather than hating the conquerers, acted under the Marshall Plan to rebuild the defeated nation.

You might expect much of the material used to convict top Nazis to be suppressed here, given the abrupt political change wherein Germany becomes America’s pals and the Soviet Union its adversary. Yet here, 76 years after the end of World War 2, we now have access to Sandra Schulberg’s monograph, filmed evidence used at the trial. Budd Schulberg and Stuart Schulberg while under OSS shaped the record of the trial. We watch the accused Nazis sitting with headphones listening to testimony, but more important they—and the Nuremberg judges—have access to films taken by the Germans themselves, documenting their own massive crimes. Emaciated bodies sliding down into mass burials. People gawking at a sign on a Jewish-owned store in Berlin “Jude.” Faded black-and-white images of Jews being marched toward eventual death. The discovery in German salt mines of scores of films in cans documenting the atrocities. One wonders why the Germans—even understanding their obsession with recording, recording, recording—would want to put these images to celluloid. Could it have been to show Hitler that they were doing their jobs? We do not get the answer from the footage we see.

One might have hoped that this documentary would have more footage of the crimes, but too much time is taken up by talking heads—including shots with Budd Schulberg, head of the OSS search team and sholars like Sylvie Lindeperg, Axel Fischer and Alexander Zöller. One testimony that came closer to being riveting is that by Niklas Frank, whose father was on trial, condemning the criminal, and a touch of honesty from Rudolph Hess, who feigned amnesia but ultimately confessed to his crimes and took responsibility.

We hear that ten defendants who were found guilty were hanged shortly after the trial and that one committed suicide the day earlier. “Filmmakers for the Prosecution” cannot stand up to the tension of many of the dramas that have hit commercial screens since 1945 but serves its purpose as yet another piece of evidence of inhumanity—the deaths of six million innocent civilians who surely did not vote for the Nazi Party in 1933 but who undoubted were as loyal as any fellow citizens of their country.

52 minutes. © 2023 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B
Technical –B+
Overall – B