Parents' Guide to

Who Will Write Our History

By Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Powerful Holocaust docu has disturbing images, stories.

Movie NR 2019 95 minutes
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No matter how many movies are made about it, the Holocaust will likely never lose its power to shock and sadden; this documentary finds an angle that will be new to most viewers. The courage and foresight that it took for those imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto's nightmarish conditions to risk their lives for a kind of time capsule -- a testament to not only horrific crimes but to their own lives and culture, should none of them survive -- is remarkable. As the Nazis' tactics graduated from institutionalized starvation to open genocide, the society's contributors realized that their writings could end up as evidence at murder trials, including their own. That the dialogue of Who Will Write Our History is from those very documents -- and that the filmmakers found archival footage to accompany much of it -- makes the film particularly powerful.

That said, the filmmakers' reliance on re-enactments is discomfiting at times. Without them, of course there would be no way to visually represent certain moments described in the texts. But you start to feel a bit uneasy watching actors giving so many performances in a film that's intented to be a documentary. The filmmmakers use cinematic cues to announce when footage is staged -- primarily shifting from black-and-white into color -- but the line still occasionally blurs. Viewers are pulled out of the moment, wondering whether the horrible act just shown was real. Still, the unique story angle -- the crafting of the Oyneg Shabes Archive -- and the often haunting actual texts make Who Will Write Our History a worthy entry in the canon.

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