Two of the most important Holocaust films - ``Shoah'' and ``Genocide'' - are being scheduled by various PBS stations to air during the last week of April in observance of National Holocaust Remembrance Week. ``Shoah,'' a unique 9-hour film directed by Claude Lanzmann, evokes the horrors of the concentration camps in a series of interviews with victims and witnesses, visits to the sites as they appear today, and discussions with Holocaust scholar Raul Hilberg.
Critics throughout the world have acclaimed the disturbing film as one of cinema's greatest documentaries. When the film first appeared in France in 1985, author Simone de Beauvoir said: ``Now, for the first time, we experience the Holocaust in our heads, hearts, and flesh. It becomes ours.''
Director Lanzmann did not use one single frame of archival footage in ``Shoah'' (which means ``annihilation'' in Hebrew). Over a period of more than 11 years he filmed 250 hours of interviews in 14 countries, acting himself as off-screen interviewer, sometimes using such questionable tactics as hidden cameras and microphones in order to coax recollections from the guilty and the innocent.
WNET, New York, will present Shoah on PBS on four consecutive evenings - Monday through Thursday, April 27-30 at 8 p.m. (ET). Each broadcast will be introduced by essayist Roger Rosenblatt; three broadcasts conclude with interviews with the film's director. In addition, WNET will rebroadcast the four segments consecutively on Sunday, May 3, from 9:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. `Genocide'
Another unforgettable National Holocaust Remembrance Week presentation will be the Academy Award- winning documentary ``Genocide,'' produced and directed by Arnold Schwartzman for the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, which houses the largest Holocaust Museum in the English-speaking world.
``Genocide'' chronicles the surge of anti-Semitism from biblical times through Nazism, narrated by Orson Welles and Elizabeth Taylor. Famous Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal appears at the beginning and end of the film to place it in its historical perspective.
Using multi-image screens as well as archival footage and contemporary art works, this extraordinary documentary is actually a collage of courage, alternately chilling and moving. It depicts acts of savagery interspersed with deeds of quiet desperation, love, and, unfortunately, despair.
``Genocide'' is not a traditional dry documentary. It is filled with sensitivity and unique moments of joy and self-awareness.
While it is bound to impress viewers indelibly with the extent of the evil that some people are capable of imposing on others, it also includes some rare moments of uplift and inspiration.
``Genocide'' will be airing on many PBS stations the week of April 25, so check local listings or, better yet, call local PBS stations about their scheduling plans during Holocaust Remembrance Week.
Both ``Shoah'' and ``Genocide'' are available on videocassette.