Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez supports Sanders for US president

This 19 October 2019 video from New York City in the USA says about itself:

HIGHLIGHTS from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez‘s endorsement of Bernie Sanders for President.

This 19 October 2019 video from New York City in the USA says about itself:

Filmmaker Michael Moore speaks at the “Bernie‘s Back” Rally in Queens on Oct. 19, 2019 and endorses Senator Bernie Sanders for President.


Jane Fonda arrested for opposing global warming

This 12 October 2019 Los Angeles Times video from the USA says about itself:

Jane Fonda is arrested in [Washington] D.C. during climate change protest

[81-year-old] Jane Fonda was arrested Friday in front of the U.S. Capitol as part of her efforts to join the fight against climate change.

This 11 October 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Jane Fonda on climate change | FULL INTERVIEW

The actress is no stranger to civil disobedience, with five arrests in the ’70s. She told our Bruce Johnson that she’d spend her birthday behind bars if needed.

McCarthyism, from Joseph McCarthy to Donald Trump

This 28 January 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

“Where’s My Roy Cohn?”: Film Explores How Joseph McCarthy’s Ex-Aide Mentored Trump & Roger Stone

Former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone, who was arrested on Friday, and Donald Trump share a unique history: Both were heavily influenced by the infamous attorney Roy Cohn, who served as a chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy during the Red Scare in the 1950s and would later become a leading mob attorney. Cohn represented Trump for years and once claimed he considered Trump to be his best friend. Cohn is the subject of a new documentary at the Sundance Film Festival titled “Where’s My Roy Cohn?” We speak to the film’s director, Matt Tyrnauer.

By Fred Mazelis in the USA:

Where’s My Roy Cohn?: A documentary on McCarthy’s right-hand man, mentor to Trump

7 October 2019

The title of this newly released documentary refers to a tirade reportedly unleashed by Donald Trump early in his presidency, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the federal investigation into Trump’s alleged ties to Russian “meddling” in the 2016 campaign.

Although Cohn had by then been dead for 31 years, Trump was wishing he still had the services of the man who became infamous as the 26-year-old second-in-command to the notorious senator from Wisconsin Joseph McCarthy at the height of the anti-communist witch hunt of the early 1950s. Cohn later became the mentor to the New York real estate developer who now occupies the Oval Office. Many observers have already noted the similarities in style and politics between Trump and Cohn—the barefaced lying, gangster mentality and tactics, disdain for elementary democratic rights, and fanatical hostility to socialism and communism—but further examination of the connection between the two men is certainly appropriate.

The film, directed by Matt Tyrnauer, a journalist for Vanity Fair magazine, adds little to what is already known about Cohn’s life and fails to offer a serious explanation of Cohn’s rise to prominence or his legacy. That legacy, however—the contemporary role of the ultra-reactionary politics he personified—makes this a timely film, if only for its archival material.

A generation that was not even born when Cohn died in 1986 can learn something from the newsreel footage, old television interviews and other elements presented. Among those interviewed for this film are journalists David Cay Johnston, Ken Auletta and Sam Roberts; Cohn’s cousins Anne Roiphe and David Marcus; and others. There are snippets of television journalist Mike Wallace, as well as a brief excerpt from an angry televised exchange between Cohn and writer Gore Vidal.

As recounted in the film, Cohn was born in 1927 into a wealthy New York City Jewish family. His father was a judge. His mother had by all accounts the greatest influence on him as he grew to maturity. He attended private schools in the city, and then Columbia College and Law School, from which he graduated at the extraordinarily young age of 20. He was only 21 when, thanks to family connections, he became an assistant US attorney.

Soon he joined the prosecution team in the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who had been charged with conspiracy to commit atomic espionage for the Soviet Union. As the documentary notes, Cohn, along with trial judge Irving R. Kaufman, was used to immunize the government against charges of anti-Semitism.

The authorities were well aware that a large percentage of American Jews were influenced by the Communist Party and by the left in general. They used the prosecution both to whip up anti-Semitism and also, at the peak of the Cold War, to secure the allegiance and obedience of that section of the Jewish population that occupied a prominent place in government, business and academia. Cohn played a particularly filthy role in railroading the Rosenbergs, and it was later revealed that he had had telephone discussions with Judge Kaufman, a flagrant violation of judicial ethics, to insist that both defendants be put to death.

Cohn’s aggressive role in the Rosenberg trial brought him to the attention of J. Edgar Hoover, the fanatically anti-communist director of the FBI. Hoover then recommended Cohn to Joseph McCarthy, who, as chairman of the Senate Special Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, was riding high in his crusade against suspected communists and their sympathizers in government, the media and elsewhere.

Cohn’s role with McCarthy came to an end in 1954, after the Army-McCarthy hearings. Cohn was accused by the Army of repeated and improper attempts to secure special treatment for G. David Schine, his “close personal friend”, who had been hired as a consultant to the McCarthy committee and drafted into the Army in 1953.

Part of the hearings were televised to a wide audience, as shown in video footage in the documentary. Behind the specific charges leveled against Cohn were bitter tactical differences within the ruling establishment. The proceedings led eventually to McCarthy’s censure by the Senate in December 1954, a blow that proved fatal to his political career and was followed by his death a few years later.

Cohn had been forced to resign from his Senate staff position. The young anti-communist crusader did not disappear, however. On the contrary, as Where’s My Roy Cohn? explains, he went on to enjoy a lucrative legal career.

Cohn became a partner in the New York firm of Saxe, Bacon and Bolan. Business executives and various white-collar criminals were eager to make use of his services. Cohn used his trademark methods to amass great wealth over the next several decades. His clients included the New York Yankees and the Catholic Archdiocese of New York. In the 1970s, Cohn became prominent as the attorney for the biggest Mafia families, including those headed by the likes of Carmine Galante, John Gotti and Tony Salerno.

It was during this period that Cohn was also retained by Donald Trump. The Trump Organization had been sued by the US Justice Department in 1973, accused of racial discrimination in the rental of apartments it managed in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. Cohn countersued for the improbable sum of $100 million. While the countersuit was dismissed, Trump was able to settle the case out of court a few years later. Cohn became a mentor to the young Trump, who at the time was not yet 30 years old.

Alongside his wealth, and despite his notoriety, the former McCarthy aide continued to enjoy significant political influence during the 1970s and 1980s. Cohn was always able to get through to the White House during the Nixon and Reagan years, serving at times as a kind of unofficial adviser.

In the late 1970s he met Rupert Murdoch, who had bought the erstwhile liberal New York Post, his first major foray into the US media market. It was Cohn who later introduced Trump to Murdoch. There is thus a fairly direct connection between the McCarthyite prosecutor of the 1950s and today’s Fox News, the semi-official media outlet for the Trump White House.

Cohn never lacked for friends in high places, in both business and government circles. These connections are illustrated in the film in striking photographs of Cohn at various social and political functions. One shows him with Trump and New York Mayor Ed Koch. Another has Cohn between former Vice President Hubert Humphrey and New York’s arch-right-wing Francis Cardinal Spellman (one of Cohn’s strongest supporters). Other footage shows Cohn at New York’s Studio 54 nightclub, hobnobbing with the likes of Andy Warhol.

Although he was the subject of federal investigations on several occasions in the 1970s and 1980s, Cohn—no doubt helped by many friends among both Democrats and Republicans—was able to either avoid charges or win acquittal. In 1986, this support began to wane.

The Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court disbarred Cohn, citing, among other things, misappropriation of clients’ funds and pressuring a comatose client to amend his will. The documentary dwells on this latter case, concerning Lewis Rosenstiel, the multimillionaire founder of Schenley Liquors. Cohn lifted the hand of the unconscious and dying man. The resulting “signature”, shown to somewhat comical effect on screen, was ruled indecipherable and inadmissible in court.

Only five weeks after his disbarment, Cohn was dead of AIDS. His refusal to the very end to acknowledge either his homosexuality or his illness is highlighted at some length in the film. What makes this pertinent is Cohn’s own use of right-wing homophobia. In the 1950s he assisted McCarthy in the so-called Lavender Scare, during which homosexuals were hounded out of their federal jobs on the grounds that they were security risks. Thousands suffered ostracism and humiliation, and a few committed suicide.

It is necessary to understand Cohn and not merely to describe him. On this score, Where’s My Roy Cohn? gives generally shallow answers. How did he become so prominent when he was still in his early 20s? Why was he able to go on to a life of wealth, privilege and continuing political influence even after he was disgraced in the Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954? And why, above all, has he seemingly been reincarnated in the Trump White House today?

The usual answers, including attributing Cohn’s behavior to his mother’s influence or to some inexplicable lust for power, are either false or misleading. Cohn’s vitriolic anti-communism drove him from the beginning. He never wavered for an instant, never softened his views during the more liberal decade of the 1960s. He is shown in an interview toward the very end of his life. Asked whether he had any regrets about sending the Rosenbergs to their deaths, he replies, “If I could have pulled the switch, I would have done it myself.”

His rabid anti-communism made Cohn useful to the ruling elite. The McCarthyite Red Scare, with Cohn playing such a prominent role, must be understood in the post-World War II context. The American ruling class faced a massive strike wave in the years immediately following the end of the war. At the same time, it had to confront the Chinese Revolution of 1949, the growth (based in part on the prestige of the Soviet Union, despite the crimes of Stalinism) of the Communist Parties in Western Europe, especially in France and Italy, and the colonial revolution sweeping much of Asia and Africa.

A major aim of the anti-communist hysteria was the purging of the labor movement, especially the housebreaking of the CIO, which had emerged out of the industrial union struggles of the 1930s. A major reason for the shift in the political winds against McCarthy by 1954 was the consolidation of a bitterly anti-communist and pro-imperialist bureaucracy in both the AFL and CIO. The two union federations merged in 1955 on the basis of ferocious anti-communism and support for US imperialism in the Cold War against the Soviet Union. The development of the AFL-CIO bureaucracy as a bulwark in defense of capitalism persuaded sections of the ruling class that the Wisconsin demagogue, with the reptilian Cohn at his side, was no longer necessary—especially when he began to attack the pillars of the capitalist state, including the Army.

As noted, Cohn did not fade away, despite pious liberal denunciations of McCarthyism in subsequent years. For capitalism in the period of imperialist decay, democracy is always disposable. The ruling classes may prefer to rule when they can through forms that allow for open debate within the establishment, along with the promotion of certain democratic illusions for the masses. The past century has shown how quickly these democratic forms are dispensed with, however.

Cohn’s friendships in high places were an indication that his methods were still being held in reserve. The whole McCarthy era passed, but the impact of the devil’s bargain made by American liberalism with the most reactionary anti-communist forces continued to be felt. Cohn’s brand of semi-fascism was put on the shelf, but never buried.

Which brings us to the Trump presidency. Where’s My Roy Cohn? clearly aims to point the finger at Trump with an eye to the 2020 election. To the extent this film has a message, it is that today’s self-proclaimed “progressives” are the answer to the dangers emanating from the White House.

Since the theft of the 2000 election, it has become increasingly clear that there is no longer any constituency within the US ruling class … for the defense of democratic rights at home, as well as throughout the world.

This finds expression today both in the Trump presidency and the Democrats’ efforts to attack Trump from the right. In the White House itself, Trump’s 34-year-old chief aide Stephen Miller struts about like a resurrected Roy Cohn. Trump, the political descendant of McCarthy and Cohn, has ascended to higher office than his mentor and is encouraging the formation of a fascist movement. Yet such is the depth of the political crisis of American capitalism that Trump can argue, with some perverse justification, that he is the victim of a witch hunt, as the Democrats play the national security card over issues such as Ukraine and Russia.

The author also recommends:

New York Times column compares Trump probe to hunt for Soviet “atomic spies”
[3 April 2017]

Trump: An American Dream—Documentary traces rise of New York real estate billionaire
[11 June 2018]

Tolkien, new film, a critical review

This March 2019 film trailer video from the USA says about itself:

TOLKIEN | Trailer 2 | FOX Searchlight

TOLKIEN explores the formative years of the renowned author’s life as he finds friendship, courage and inspiration among a fellow group of writers and artists at school. Their brotherhood strengthens as they grow up and weather love and loss together, including Tolkien’s tumultuous courtship of his beloved Edith Bratt, until the outbreak of the First World War which threatens to tear their fellowship apart. All of these experiences would later inspire Tolkien to write his famous Middle-earth novels.

The film is produced by Fox, part of the Rupert Murdoch empire. Not a good omen.

By Sandy English in the USA:

Tolkien: Biopic of author J.R.R. Tolkien rings false

5 October 2019

Directed by Dome Karukoski. Screenplay by David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford.

Tolkien is a fictionalized biography of the early life of J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit (1936) and The Lord of the Rings trilogy (1947-55).

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973) is the most significant figure in the field of heroic fantasy, one of the most popular genres of fiction, film and television today. Fantasy, closely related to science fiction as a type of imaginative writing, emerged in the 19th century from the study of folklore, northern European epic poetry and medieval romance. The understanding of these sources was making great strides in the second half of that century, and helped to inspire fantasy, which was influenced by the romanticism of the earlier 19th century.

It is generally agreed today that Tolkien’s stature as an important English-language novelist—whether one agrees with this characterization or not—should not be diminished by the fact that he wrote about imaginary worlds with fictitious mythologies in which magic is used and which he populated both with humans and with a variety of human-like creatures.

After an initial success of The Lord of the Rings in the 1950s, the trilogy, and its prequel The Hobbit, steadily grew in popularity and are today a defining influence on the fantasy genre, which includes many bestselling novels and popular television dramas, such as Game of Thrones.

Tolkien was born in South Africa, where his father died in 1896. His mother relocated the family to Birmingham, England, and raised him and his brother in poverty until she, too, died in 1904. He spent the rest of his youth under the stewardship of a Catholic priest, Fr. Francis Xavier Morgan (played in the film by Colm Meaney), who sought to prevent his attachment to a fellow orphan, Edith Bratt.

Tolkien shows the author as a young man in the period preceding, during and immediately following the First World War of 1914 to 1918, in which Tolkien served as a junior officer in the British army on the western front. The film more or less stops there, however.

On this basis alone, the film must be judged wanting. It cannot possibly give a serious depiction of the times and experiences that produced Tolkien and his work while omitting the impact of the rest of the first third of the 20th century on Tolkien’s work. Even more seriously, it gives a simplistic and linear view of artistic development in general.

The film lavishes attention on Tolkien’s childhood and youth as an orphan, his association with a group of young friends, first at King Edward’s school in Birmingham, and after 1913—while he was at Oxford University—the Tea Club and Barrovian Society (TCBS). The TCBS scenes are given far too much emphasis in the film. Another focus is Tolkien’s courtship of Edith Bratt (Lily Collins). Both of these elements only add to a misleading impression of Tolkien as simply a typical middle-class youth of the pre-war period, with an interest in ancient languages.

This was the period of Tolkien’s life during which he formed an interest in the study of Germanic languages, ancient and modern. His love of linguistics and ancient Germanic literature (the Old Norse Eddas or the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, for example) and his play with word-origins became the focus of his academic career after the war, but also a significant source of his own fictional mythology of Middle Earth, the world of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and other works.

To its credit, Tolkien does show this interest—in one scene, John Ronald (Nicholas Hoult) approaches the famous Oxford Germanic linguist Joseph Wright (Derek Jacobi) to ask to be transferred to his course of study.

The acting in the film is generally good. Jacobi is a scholar obsessed by his field, and Hoult has the right proportions of enthusiasm before and discouragement after the war.

Tolkien’s induction into the military, and the depictions of battle on the Somme in 1916, are vivid and affecting scenes. The nightmare visions of thousands of soldiers are here: the piles of corpses, the maddening artillery barrages. One gets a sense of the suffering and carnage that Tolkien saw in that battle, one of the worst in human history.

But the film makes completely misguided attempts to locate these experiences in the development of Tolkien’s art. At one point on the Somme, feverish, he goes on a journey through the trenches to find his TCBS friend Christopher Wiseman (Tom Glynn-Carney). He is accompanied by a soldier conveniently named Sam (the name one of the characters Tolkien uses in an epic journey in The Lord of the Rings 20 years later). Clouds of shell smoke form themselves into the shape of wraiths that resemble those of the Peter Jackson’s film version of The Lord of the Rings.

The rest of the film also indulges is this kind of oversimplification of the sources of Tolkien’s artistic work. When Edith asks John Ronald to tell her a story, he begins by saying, “It’s about journeys, the journeys we take to prove ourselves,” leading the viewer to assume that Tolkien already had in mind the kind of journeys that form the basis of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

While Tolkien was a flop at the box-office, it is true that anything associated with Tolkien is potentially worth millions. In this case, the film was disavowed by the Tolkien Estate, which announced before the film was released that it wished “to make clear that they did not approve of, authorise or participate in the making of this film.” The estate has taken authors and business to court several times, and it sold rights for a television series based on his works to Amazon for $250 million in 2017. The company is said to be investing over a billion dollars in the production of this series.

Tolkien is loosely based on a biography by John Garth that covers the same period in Tolkien’s life, Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-Earth (2003). Garth has also raised doubts about the accuracy of the film.

Garth’s biography is a better effort. Overall it sticks to the facts of Tolkien’s life. it makes some interesting observations about the work that Tolkien began writing when he was convalescing from trench fever and was associated with the mythology that later became the backdrop to the Lord of the Rings.

Garth, however, uses the same method as the film does when he fails to identify the place of World War I in history, to trace the conceptions that formed Tolkien’s sensibility or to compare his time on the Somme in any detail with those of other writers who experienced the war. There is little in his book about the immediate postwar period and the enormous impact of the war on European society and politics.

While the war unquestionably had a profound effect on Tolkien—years later he called it an “utter stupid waste” and “an animal horror”—the real question is, what impact did World War I and the next 20–25 years, which saw the rise of fascism, the depression and the coming of a second world war, have on him and his creative work.

Any assessment of the effect of the war itself would have to be weighed in that context, especially since his work about Middle Earth did not appear for nearly two decades. The complexity and richness of a whole historical period during which Tolkien worked out his languages, mythologies and fiction is missing from the book as well as the film.

The immediacy of the war came full force and gave expression to the feelings and thoughts of millions of active-duty soldiers, in works such as Henri Barbusse’s novel Under Fire (1916) and the poems of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, which were also published during the war.

But other works by soldiers took time to develop. Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front was not published until 1928, for example, and William March’s Company K not until 1930.

In fact, few authors had a less immediate response to the world around them than J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien, who invented his own mythology and even whole languages, passed through a prolonged development, 19 years between the end of the war and the production of The Hobbit.

Understanding Tolkien’s life is an entirely legitimate project, especially for what it can reveal about the social, artistic and personal influences on his work, but the film unfortunately fails to give a broader sense of the times in which he lived.

Tolkien is not in any way critical of British society before the war. The viewer is as surprised as the characters when war is declared and when it turns into a disaster. The film offers few insights into the character of the war, aside from its bloody violence, and it does not show a world transformed by the war. At best we get a sense of what it did to Tolkien, but not to European society. This method does not help us understand the 20th century, the artists that it produced, or Tolkien’s own work.

Climate protest at Venice film festival

This 7 September 2017 video from Spanish news agency EFE says about itself:

Environmental activists stage sit-in on Venice Film Festival red carpet

Venice, Italy, (Camera: Jorge Ortiz). Hundreds of environmental activists staged a sit-in on the red carpet at Venice‘s Film Festival on Saturday calling on the international community to declare a climate emergency, winning plaudits from Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger and Canadian actor Donald Sutherland.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Hundreds of climate activists have occupied the red carpet for hours on the final day of the film festival in Venice. They demanded action against climate change and a ban on big cruise ships to dock in Venice any longer.

The more than three hundred participants, some dressed in white overalls, had signs with slogans such as Grandi navi no (no big ships) and Big ships kill Venice. The police kept a close eye on the demonstrators, but the demonstration was peaceful. The demonstrators left around noon.

The demonstrators were supported by Rolling Stones leader Mick Jagger and actor Donald Sutherland, who are in Venice for the premiere of the thriller The burnt orange heresy, in which they both play a role.

“I’m glad they do this because they’re the ones who inherit the planet“, Jagger said at a press conference. He also criticized the US American government, which he says is in the process of reversing all the environmental measures taken.

According to Sutherland, environmentalists must fight harder for their aims and deserve all the support they can get. He was also critical of the leaders of some major countries. “If you are my age, 85, and you have children and grandchildren, then you do not leave them anything at all if you do not vote those people in Brazil, London and Washington out. They are destroying the earth.”

The Photographer of Mauthausen, film reviews

This 28 February 2019 video says about itself:

The Photographer of Mauthausen, Netflix Review

I hope you enjoy my review of the fantastic Photographer of Mauthausen. It’s a true story.

By Benjamin Mateus:

Documenting Nazi crimes in a wartime concentration camp

28 August 2019

Directed by Mar Targarona; written by Roger Danès and Alfred Pérez Fargas

The Photographer of Mauthausen, available at Netflix, is a Spanish film by Mar Targarona, an actor-producer turned director. It is based on the story of Francesc Boix (played by Mario Casas), a left-wing Catalan militant held at the notorious Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. Mauthausen and its subcamps formed one of the largest slave-labor complexes in German-controlled Europe. Home to “incorrigible” political prisoners and others, hundreds of thousands died there.

Many left-wing Spaniards who fled to France following the victory of fascist forces in the civil war (1936-39) were captured by German forces after the fall of France in 1940 or handed over by the Vichy authorities.

Or handed over by Hitler’s Gestapo to the Franco dictatorship in Spain, to be killed.

Boix (born 1920), who had joined the French Army, fell into German hands and was sent to Mauthausen in 1941, where he remained until its liberation in May 1945. Because of his reputation as an amateur photographer, he became an assistant in the laboratory to SS officer Paul Ricken (Richard Van Weyden). The Nazis were fastidious in their photographic documentation of day-to-day life in these camps, including important visits by such officials as Heinrich Himmler and Albert Speer.

In the course of his internment, according to The Photographer of Mauthausen, Boix was able to hide and smuggle out over 2,000 negatives documenting the systematic terror and crimes committed by the Nazi SS. These photos played a crucial role in prosecuting certain high-ranking officers at the Nuremberg trials.

Director Targarona’s motivation for making the film stemmed from her interest in the period “and in particular Nazism, which never ceases to astonish me.” The story of a Spanish prisoner of war seemed especially compelling. A book by Benito Bermejo, The Photographer of Horror (2002), was the basis for the film. Bermejo also collaborated closely with Targarona and her team on the writing and shooting of the film. The events depicted and the characters portrayed, as the director tells Variety, are “composites of life at Mauthausen”. We will return to this issue, which may have some importance.

Mario Casas and Richard van Weyden in The Photographer of Mauthausen

Rather than providing a broader portrait of Boix—barely 20 years old when he arrived in the camp and already a seasoned fighter in the Spanish Civil war—and his life, Targarona confines her subtle but complex narrative predominately to the young man’s experiences at Mauthausen. She relies, rightly or wrongly, on the viewer’s knowledge of the period to provide the missing context. The initial titles and sparse first-person narration by Boix and dialogue provide the historical links to the haunting images.

Intentionally, Targarona has avoided grainy, documentary-style effects and shaky images intended to provide a sense of being in the moment. According to the filmmaker, “From the start, I wanted cinematography of great quality. I can’t stand the idea that relates making a historical film and automatically adding grain and killing the color.” Certainly, her approach offers a more intimate frame of reference.

The film opens to blurred images with subdued colors that come into focus. They are men of various states of health and ages marching through the camp’s ominous gates. The kapos take charge. The prisoners’ possessions are confiscated, they are undressed and their heads shaved. They are marched out into the cold where they stand naked in formation.

SS officer Ricken, positions his camera and photographs them. The supreme commandant of Mauthausen, Franz Ziereis (Stefan Weinert), arrives to look over the prisoners. The old, maimed and feeble are pulled out of formation and directed to a van and driven away. A distraught boy named Anselmo (Adrià Salazar) watches his father taken, while the latter motions his son to remain still.

We are then introduced to Boix as he prepares an intake headshot photo of Anselmo wearing his new prison uniform. He consoles the young boy, assuring him his father is safe at the infirmary at the Gusen camp. When Anselmo leaves, Valbuena (played by Alain Hernández), head assistant in the photographic laboratory, chides Boix for lying to the boy.

The drama in The Photographer of Mauthausen proceeds episodically, a mosaic of events that encompass four years, without identifying a specific chronology. The repetition of narrative threads that depict the everyday struggles for survival help tie the scenes structurally, while working formally to draw the narrative forward.

The initial exchange between Boix and Ricken sets into motion the film’s development as a polemic on the nature of art and objectivity. After Boix explains to Ricken how he became a photographer, Ricken looks over his work and says, “You can make it better. You must learn to paint with light.” Boix replies, “That’s cheating.” Ricken counters that art, like the experience of reality, is purely subjective and a matter of interpretation.

We witness the cover-up of senseless killings committed by SS officers that are staged as escapes and photographed for the official records. In a gruesome scene, Boix and Ricken travel by car to the outskirts of the camp. There are several corpses lying in the snow. They were allegedly shot attempting to escape. While Boix sets up the camera lights and positions the bodies, he whispers to Fonesca (Eduard Buch), who oversees the identification services, that these men were executed. One of them is Anselmo’s father.

While working in the photo lab, Boix soon comes across a file filled with negatives. Sifting through these, he discovers they are images of piles of bodies lying upon one another. Disturbed by his findings of the Nazis’ systematic mass killings, he instinctively hides the negatives in the back of a drawer in a filing cabinet.

In the film’s transitional moment, Boix meets up with other prisoners in the back of the barracks. They are listening to a war broadcast on amateur radio. They find out that the Germans have lost the Battle of Stalingrad (early February 1943). Though cautiously elated by the magnitude of the news, the men also learn that Ziereis has ordered the destruction of all the negatives and prints in the photo lab.

Francesc Boix is on the far left with a camera hanging around his neck. Photograph by Donald R. Ornitz

Boix convinces his comrades that they must preserve these as evidence; otherwise, no one will ever believe the horrors the Nazi have committed. The film’s tempo begins to shift creating a sense of purposeful urgency and camaraderie. There is a coordinated effort by these men working in concert to hide and smuggle out these photographs. The magnitude of this endeavor finds its succinct expression near the film’s conclusion.

The prisoners are turned out of the barracks and lined up. Ziereis, blaring into a microphone, berates and threatens them about any future escape attempts. Parodying an earlier moment when the Spanish prisoners staged a variety show to divert the guards’ attention during an escape, the prisoners are forced to watch a procession of musicians lead their comrade, who has been visibly tortured, toward makeshift gallows.

Ricken stands ready with his camera to capture the moment. A noose is placed around the prisoner’s neck, and the stool he is standing on is kicked out from him. As he begins to swing, the rope breaks and he falls to the ground gasping. Ziereis, visibly irritated, has the band resume playing. The kapos help the prisoner up, place a sturdier noose around his neck and this time the work is done. Then, in a touching moment, using deep focus, the camera pans over the shoulder of the swaying man at the faces of each prisoner as he files by looking on with anguish and pain. The scene assumes a poignantly documentary reality.

The Photographer of Mauthausen treats the liberation of the camp and the fate of Ricken, Boix and the hidden photographs. The film’s credits proceed to show the actual prints of scenes re-enacted in the film. The final segment shows us the real Francesc Boix being asked to identify one of the Nazi war criminals at the Nuremberg trials.

Targarona’s film is a cohesively artistic work emphasizing the importance of preserving historical truth. These factors should be strongly applauded and encouraged. However, various elements remain underdeveloped. The reference to the Communists in the film as sympathetic protagonists is to be acknowledged, but there is little to enlighten viewers about the nature of the various political relationships under such complex and physically unbearable conditions. The mix of left-wing elements included anarchist and bourgeois Republicans who had significant political differences.

There is also little in The Photographer of Mauthausen to explain the Nazis’ inhumanity. It is easy to be horrified but more difficult to understand the source of such cruelty. The only reference to the socioeconomic underpinnings of fascism has to be extrapolated from a violent episode in which the SS officers and their families gather for a gala at a chateau belonging to Poschacher (Rainer Reiners), a man who owns a nearby quarry and uses slave laborers from Mauthausen.

Understandably, historical complexities impose certain limitation on such works.