When “Swastika” was shown at the 1973 Cannes film festival, fights broke out and somebody threw part of a chair at the screen.“All hell broke loose,” says the film’s Australian-born, Los Angeles-based director Phillipe Mora. “There were eruptions all through the theatre. Finally they stopped the film and a French guy came out, looking like a head waiter and said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Cannes film festival, not a beer hall.” The cause of the ruckus was, primarily, that the film appeared to humanise Adolf Hitler and his inner circle. Never-seen-before colour footage, shot mostly by Hitler’s mistress Eva Braun, showed the personification of evil cuddling his dog, playing with children and discussing “Gone with the Wind.”
The revival of “Swastika,” championed by the German documentary director Ilona Ziok, is a sign, Mora says, that Germany has matured in how it handles its Nazi legacy. After the Berlin screening, a German film producer effusively told Mora, a Jew whose father was born in Leipzig, that “Swastika” should be shown in every school. It’s a far cry from its reception in 1973. Three decades before films such as “Downfall” began breaking the taboo against exploring the human side of the Nazis, Mora’s film provoked outrage.
“The film was made under the assumption that everybody knew Hitler was a monster and a murderer. I didn’t realise it was open to debate,” he says. “But he was a man with a mother and a father and sisters and a pet dog. And that viscerally disturbed people. They had only seen Hitler ranting and raving in grainy black and white film. It took 30 years but now a new generation is interested.”
Lost at the Pentagon
Mora went to the Pentagon, which found the eight cans of film and happily handed them over. “We were just dumbfounded,” he recalls. “Here was this incredible footage that’d just been sitting there because no one had asked for it.”More > > >