KZ
Category All , History
Year: 2005
Country: England
Running Time: 98'
Production: Rex Entertainment
Director: Rex Bloomstein
Official Website: www.kzthefilm.com
 
Synopsis

The unspeakable told a thousand times...
The unimaginable seen a thousand times...
Where do you go from there? You have to start anew.
That is where this film begins...

On the banks of the river Danube, surrounded by the beautiful landscape of Upper Austria lies the picturesque town of Mauthausen. Two kilometres from its town centre is a place that attracts bikers, busloads of tourists, parties of schoolchildren, people from all over the world. Tour guides come to work here everyday while nearby the locals go about their daily lives. This is a place where thousands upon thousands of people from over 30 nations were tortured and murdered. This site is the former KZ, German short for concentration camp.

How does it feel to be a tourist at a former concentration camp? How does it feel to work here as a guide, day in day out? How does it feel to live here as a local with the dark secrets of the past? And what of those who've chosen this town to be their new home?

KZ is a groundbreaking film about us facing our ultimate demons. It is a contemporary yet timeless piece on the horrors that the human race has and always will be inflicting on one another.

Stripped of the usual dramatic devices, survivor testimonies and archive footage this radical film shows nothing but says everything. It will shake you to the core.

More on Film

DIRECTOR'S STATEMENT

It began some years ago.

The oompah band played. Sausage and beer flowed. The men and women in lederhosen danced and sang. We'd broken for lunch and had stumbled across this typical pub party in rural Austria. Having eaten, we walked back some 400 hundred yards to the quarry in which we were filming - the main quarry where so many prisoners had been systematically worked to death only sixty years before. This was Mauthausen. It was 1995 and I had been making a film about the liberators of the Nazi concentration camps.

I had already made Auschwitz and the Allies in 1982, an examination of what was known, what could have been done and The Gathering, also in 1982, based on the world gathering of survivors in Jerusalem as well as The Longest Hatred, 1989, a three part study of the history of Anti-Semitism.

But the disjunction of those two scenes remained with me – the carefree laughter of the pub garden, and a walk away, the silence of the quarry.

Countless documentaries about the Holocaust have been made since the revelations sixty years ago, of Auschwitz, Dachau, Belsen and Sobibor. There is talk of 'Holocaust fatigue' as if such a subject can ever be exhausted. What is true is that successive generations must find his or her own way to deal with the 'tremendum' as one philosopher has named it. For many questions continue to haunt any endeavor to understand the essence of the concentration camps. What are our reactions at the horror that engulfed millions? How can we respond to the incredible plan to obliterate every last Jewish man, woman and child from the face of the earth and dehumanize and enslave whole other races and groups of people?

Today thousands of people come from all over the world to visit Mauthausen, the largest Nazi concentration camp in Austria. Curious and compelled by what took place 60 years ago, they walk through the concrete buildings where the SS administered the camp, the inmate blocks that housed prisoners from all over Europe as well as American, British and Russian POW's, the gas chamber and crematorium, the execution corner. They clamber up the 186 steps that prisoners were forced to climb with knapsacks full of bricks from the quarry.

What do they think? What do they feel? What are their questions?

This is our focus: the tourists, the sightseers, the curious wandering about the camp; those who have come specifically; the tour guides leading groups of school children and parties of older people; Mauthauseners going about their daily lives; Mauthauseners who were young at the time; and those who have become Mauthauseners by deciding to move to the area.

As the project developed I realized that the film had to be more austere in its approach and that I would have to jettison most of the fashionable tools of documentary filmmaking. So there is no commentary, no music, and no reconstructions with actors.

KZ is stripped down. There is no attempt to sentimentalize or overtly manipulate the emotions. There are no historians; there is no black and white footage of the liberation of the camp, no piles of corpses. All have been seen. It is in the reactions of the guides, the visitors, young and old, that the challenge lies. It is in the universality of that experience.

KZ is probably the first 21st century film on the Holocaust without survivors and as such it presages the future.

KZ is a film about the interface between now and then. What do the meanings of the camp experience convey to all of us who were never there? How possible is it for our imagination to grasp the enormity of the crimes committed there. Why should we consider these events when we have our own contemporary genocides and wars?

KZ is a film that it is set in the landscape of a concentration camp but is a film about today, a film about us.

What will we remember?

In the Gulag Archipelago, Alexander Solzhenitsen wrote "If only there were evil people somewhere, insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?"

More about Director

Rex Bloomstein

Rex Bloomstein began his career as a documentary director with the BBC in the U.K. in 1970 with cinema verité studies of British life, all under the generic title of 'All In A Day'.

His early work centred on a string of documentaries for U.K. broadcast which exposed realities of prison life and addressed aspects of the British penal system previously closed to public scrutiny. These include films such as 'The Sentence', 'Release', 'Prisoner's Wives', 'Parole', 'Lifers' and 'Strangeways' which won two British Academy Awards; one for best documentary series and one for best independent documentary. In 2001 BBC2's Timewatch commissioned 'Strangeways Re-Visited'.

Over the years, Rex has produced and directed a number of acclaimed historical studies for television: 'Traitors to Hitler', 'Martin Luther King - The Legacy', 'Auschwitz And The Allies', 'The Gathering' and 'Attack On The Liberty'.

He has also committed a lot of his films to exploring Holocaust orientated topics: 'The Longest Hatred', a trilogy charting the unique history of anti-Semitism and its manifestation in modern society, broadcast in over twenty countries worldwide, 'Liberation' which featured the stories of allied soldiers who were the first to enter the Nazi Concentration Camps, part of Channel 4's season of programmes marking the anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

Another major concentration of Rex's work has been to highlight the abuse of human rights. This began with a two hour film in 1984, 'Human Rights', which explored the global struggle against human rights violations. Then 'Roots Of Evil' was a major three-part series exploring why acts of terror and destruction seem endemic in the human condition. The film that followed, 'Torture' was an examination of how this tragic phenomenon continues in contemporary society.

To mark the 40th anniversary of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1988, Rex then conceived and produced a new series for the BBC called 'Prisoners of Conscience'. This featured the stories of individual prisoners from around the world. The series ran for five years and featured more than sixty prisoners, of whom over forty are now free. Presenters included Sir Yehudi Menhuin, former Prime Ministers Lord Callaghan and Sir Edward Heath, Sting,
Glenda Jackson, Tom Stoppard, Phil Collins and the former hostages John McCarthy and Brian Keenan. 'Human Rights, Human Wrongs', a week of 10-minute programmes on human rights themes, then evolved and were broadcast annually. These were presented by amongst others, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Salman Rushdie, Arthur Miller, Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep, Isabelle Allende, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Catherine Deneuve.

Rex Bloomstein is a film maker of power and passion who is still engaging broadcasters and distributors with his unique hard hitting, unembellished explorations of life. 'Lifer - Living With Murder' came out in 2003 and he recently completed 'Kids Behind Bars', for Channel 4, which aired over the summer.

KZ is his first theatrical feature film.


Filmography:

Kids Behind Bars - 2005
KZ - 2005
Lifer - Living With Murder - autumn 2003
Strangeways Re-Visited - May 2001
Human Rights, Human Wrongs - 1999
Urgent Action - December 1998
Roots of Evil - autumn 1997
Understanding the Holocaust - 1997
Liberation - January 1995
Hustlers, Hoaxers, Tricksters, Jokesters & Ricky Jay - 1995
The Longest Hatred - 1993
What Do you Expect, Paradise? - 1993
Cliff Richard - The Life & Times of a Pop Legend - 1993
The Torso Murders - 1992
Prisoners of Conscience - 1988
Martin Luther King - The Legacy - 1988
Next Time Dear God Please Choose Someone Else - 1987
Attack on the Liberty - 1987
Lifers - 1983
Lifer - 1982
Auschwitz & the Allies - 1982
The Gathering - 1982
Strangeways - 1980
Tom Keating - Portrait of a Master Forger - 1980
Please God Don't Let Peace Break Out - 1978
Parole - 1977
Prisoners' Wives - 1976
Release - 1975
Musclemen - 1974
The Sentence - 1974
The Advertising Agent - 1973
The Candidate - 1971
The City - 1971
The Launch - 1970
The Auction - 1970
The Patient is the Family - 1970

Festivals & Awards

2005 Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival, Netherlands
Won VARA Audience Award

2006 Sundance Film Festival
Nominated for Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema - Documentary

2006 Lisbon International Documentary Film Festival, Portugal
Won Best Film Award for Best Investigations Documentary

2006 Portland International Film Festival, USA

2006 Amnesty International Film Festival, Netherlands
Won Audience Award

2006 South by Southwest Film Festival, USA

2006 Vermont International Film Festival, USA
Won Best War & Peace Documentary Award

2006 Its All True – International Documentary Film Festival, Brazil

2006 Sarasota Film Festival, USA

2006 Jacksonville Film Festival, USA

2006 Planet Doc Review, Poland

2006 Newport International Film Festival, USA

2006 Biografilm Festival Bologna, Italy

2006 Silverdocs Film Festival, USA

2006 Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, USA

2006 Jerusalem International Film Festival, Israel

2006 Galway Film Fleah, Ireland

2006 Filmfest Munich, Germany

2006 UK Jewish Film Festival

New Zealand Documenatry Film Festival

San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, USA

Britdoc International Documentary Festival, UK

Melbourne Film Festival, Australia

Edinburgh Film Festival, UK

2008 Vancouver Jewish Film Festival, Canada

San Diego Jewish Film Festival, USA

Istanbul Meeting of Cinema & History, Turkey

Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, USA

Max Ophuls Film Festival, Germany

New York Human Rights Watch, USA

Valladolid International Film Festival, Spain

Norrkoping Film Festival, Sweden

Vienna Jewish Film festival, Austria

Palm Beach Jewish Film Festival, USA

Warsaw Jewish Film Festival, USA

Press & Reviews

"...increasingly disturbing portrait of contempo guides and visitors at the Nazi concentration camp Mauthausen, and villagers in the Austrian town. Strong subject and unfussy execution… Tech package is pro… Overlapping sound subtly knits together disparate scenes to impressive fluency and narrative flow.”
Leslie Felperin, VARIETY
Online . . .

"Notable... ambitiously aims to create a radically different Holocaust film... admirable work."
David Gritten, DAILY TELEGRAPH
Online . . .

"quietly electrifying.... KZ reinvigorates oft-told Holocaust atrocities by relaying them from neglected perspectives."
Jan Stewart, NEWSDAY
Online . . .

Jewish Journal, Robert Jaffee feature, "Two Dark Tales Illuminated at Sundance" 1/13/2006
Online . . .

"Subtle and understated - but this only serves to make the film all the more unsettling."
Geoffry Macnab, SCREEN INTERNATIONAL

"An Interview with Rex Bloomstein"
Sandy Mandelberger, FILMFESTIVALS.COM
Online . . .

"KZ" is a totally engrossing and extremely disturbing doc It's a powerful message delivered in an intriguing way."
Don Lewis, FILMTHREAT.COM
Online . . .

"Rex Bloomstein's powerfully restrained KZ makes a compelling case for not just the continued existence of the form itself, but the necessity of the concentration camp memorial experience." Rex Bloomstein: "There is talk of 'Holocaust fatigue,' as if such a subject can ever be exhausted." Interview
INDIEWIRE
Online . . .

“In its deceptively calm way, KZ is the year's most fascinating documentary"
Nicolas Barber, INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY

"KZ...is an outstanding documentary"
Phillip French, THE OBSERVER

"…it raises issues of remembrance, and forgetting in a steadily unsettling, powerfully understated way"
THE TIMES

"Rex Bloomstein achieves the impressive feat of not merely memorialising the Holocaust, but probing the complex, discomfiting hold it continues to have on the now."
TIME OUT NEW YORK

"If it weren't true you simply wouldn't believe it ...an impressively calm documentary"
THE EVENING STANDARD

"Rex Bloomstein's powerful documentary about the WW2 Nazi Mauthausen concentration camp centres on guides taking tourists around the camp (there is no archive footage), and his stark account still chills to the bone"
THE DAILY STAR

“Bloomstein’s film carefully marshals a polyphony of responses to the camp's disfiguring presence, and the stark aesthetic - there is no music, narrative commentary or 'expert' testimony - feels entirely of a piece with the film's refusal to pass judgement or draw conclusions. KZ is a beautifully understated, troubling achievement, one haunted by the necessary burden as well as the limits of memorialisation.”
SIGHT AND SOUND

“KZ, perhaps the first postmodern Holocaust movie …explores the subject in a different way. …Bloomstein …was making a TV documentary called “Liberation” when he noticed the beer drinking and singing taking place within yards of the former concentration camp. He was “haunted by the disjunction, the reality of people enjoying themselves, and then the reality over there” at the camp, and decided to make a film that would show “the interface of memory and history and the present.”
JEWISH JOURNAL

“Sublime …KZ becomes a fascinating study of the way minds work when confronted with the inconceivable.”
Scott Renshaw and Mike D’Angelo, SALT LAKE WEEKLY