They’re a strange thing consciences. Trouble is, what feels best isn’t necessarily what works best.
Richard Rampton (Denial 2016)
So, this is a movie review, and like I always say – no spoilers. And this particular review is no exception. I usually find movies based on true stories very boring. As a matter of fact, I find it difficult to read books detailing or narrating true events. They just never appeal to me. So I started watching this movie with an expectancy of boredom.
I have always heard about Hitler, and the Nazis and the killing of the Jews and the Holocaust, but I never paid attention to it. To me, it was just one of those bad things that happened a really long time ago. As a matter of fact, I didn’t know the meaning of Anti-Semite (I am ashamed, thanks) until I watched this movie. Suffice to say, I know zilch about the Holocaust, except that it happened. And I was really surprised to even realize that people deny that it happened.
So basically, the movie is not really centered on whether the Holocaust happened or not. It is about a libel suit brought by a holocaust denier, David Irving against Deborah Lipstadt, a Dorot professor of Jewish and Holocaust Studies, Emory University and author of ‘Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory’, accusing her of defaming him when she referred to him as a ‘Hitler Partisan who distorted evidence in order to reach historically untenable conclusions’ in her book. So we are made to follow the preparation by the solicitors and the barristers – case theory/trial plan, visit to Auschwitz – up to the trial itself, and the final judgment. Who won? No spoilers.
I have a lot of points from my reflection after watching this movie. First, my opinion on movies based on nonfiction has totally changed. I find that all I need to enjoy such movies is an open mind. Second, I have learnt a lot of things. Will I be doing some private readings of my own? You bet. Nothing too heavy though. And I just couldn’t help but notice the similarities and differences between the English legal system and ours. Similarities – the defamation law is the same. Yes, the burden of proving the truth of an allegedly defaming statement is on the maker in Nigeria too. Then, there is the use of the wig and gown. Difference – the distinction between practice as a solicitor and as a barrister. I was able to catch a glimpse of how their system of legal practice worked. And since the movie was set in a time nearly two decades away from today, it is possible that the system may have undergone some improvements so it may not be an accurate depiction of what obtains today. Then, the team work and the dedication of the Deborah’s legal team inspired me. It wasn’t easy, especially when their strategy didn’t seem ‘fair’. But they were able to make it work. Then I think I have a little understanding of what the Biafran war means to the Igbo people. The truth remains that I won’t feel strongly about any of the two events, but I am able to empathize even though I have little or no connection to either of them.
I could go on and on. It is a great movie, and I was really tempted to get the book. It is just that I have this really long list of unread books that I have because I watched movies that were based on them. I really don’t want to add to the list until I am able to reduce it. It would be worth your time, and you will definitely learn something new. The court room scenes and the preparation for trial resonated with me. You really don’t have to know anything about the Holocaust to enjoy it. Case in point – me.