‘The Zookeeper’s Wife,’ a World War II holocaust story, was the main subject of discussion on Friday during a review of the movies shown during the Dietrich Theater’s Summer Fest.
About 10 people gathered to discuss the 23 films shown during the event.
Some of the participants even had immediate family members directly affected by the Holocaust share their poignant stories while discussing merits - and shortcomings - of ‘The Zoo Keeper’s Wife.”
The film tells the true story of the Zookeepers, Antonina and Jan Zabinski, owners and keepers of the Warsaw, Poland Zoo, which helped save hundreds of people and animals during the German invasion.
Hildy Morgan said that, for her, the most horrifying scene depicted hundreds of small children being transported out of the area to a concentration camp.
Esther Harmatz said her shirt was soaked because she was crying so much during the film. One scene which particularly moved her was the depicting of Nazi’s killing all the zoo’s animals - including a baby camel - because it was no longer feasible to support them.
“It was just horrifying,” she said.
Most of the discussion on the film focused on the affects of racial and religious persecution, and how it can come about. Ann Davies noted that people who don’t stand up and oppose such things when they see them can become so desensitized they don’t believe anything is wrong.
Elly Miller of Dallas had been a part of a showing of the movie earlier in the week, and noted that her grandmother, Frieda Zorn, was a victim of the Holocaust. The last communication they ever had from her is a postcard sent from Burzeyn, Poland in 1940.
The post card was sent to her mother, Miller explained, and she eventually passed it on to her granddaughter as a personal family memento.
Harmatz said that her mother was living in Austria when the Nazis took it over in 1938. A short time later, a department store manager where she worked informed her mother that she was being fired, Harmatz explained.
This caused her mother to inform her family that they needed to immediately leave the country - immigrating to England to escape the Nazi oppression.
Another popular film was ‘Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story.’ The film is a documentary of the lives of Harold and Lillian Michelson, who work for many years in Hollywood - Harold as a storyboard artist, and Lillian as a film researcher. In their long careers, the couple worked for Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg and many others.
The consensus was that the inside information presented on the multiple films they worked on was fantastic.
Harry Sweppenheiser noted that they worked on such films as Spaceballs and Star Trek, making significant contributions to them.
An example of how local events can sometimes be reflected in a film were pointed out during the discussion of ‘Citizen Jane: Battle for the City.’
The movie is the true story of Jane Jacobs, who fought to preserve urban communities in the face of destructive development projects.
Although set in the 1960s in lower Manhattan, Davies said she can see parallels in what occurred in Wilkes-Barre following the Flood of 72. During the restoration, she said, many old community residences were razed, and the markets and businesses that supported them were eliminated. The action had long term consequences for the community, which was exactly what was depicted in the movie.
Other movies discussed included ‘Alive and Kicking,’ a documentary about swing dancing; ‘Churchill,’ a biography concerning the English prime minister’s plans for D-Day; and Monterey Pop, a music documentary about the Monterey Jazz Festival, containing performances by such 1960s icons as The Grateful Dead, The Mamas and the Papas, and Jefferson Airplane.