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The one serious subject Hollywood doesn't avoid

More than 170 films about the Holocaust have been made since 1989. Six more are out this fall.

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At a time when fantasies, comedies, and frivolous fare dominate the movie marketplace, films on serious subjects often seem like an endangered cultural species. Yet one utterly serious event - arguably the gravest of the past century - retains strong relevance for filmmakers and audiences.

This is the Holocaust, with the evidence it contained of a bestial inhumanity lurking at the heart of contemporary life.

One sign of ongoing interest in Holocaust films is the arrival of four new movies on the subject in American theaters during the next two months: "The Pianist" and "Amen." dramatize true experiences; "Max" is historical fiction; and "Blind Spot - Hitler's Secretary" is a documentary.

Another sign is the publication of Annette Insdorf's definitive book "Indelible Shadows: Film and the Holocaust" in a new edition next month.

The author discusses no fewer than 170 films that have been made or rediscovered since the last edition in 1989.

"I could have devoted a whole new book to the recent titles alone," said Ms. Insdorf in a recent interview.

Although the new films were made before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, they may be viewed more attentively by moviegoers because of that day's tragic events. "We are still reeling from the approximately 3,000 people killed on 9/11," notes Insdorf, "but we should recall that this is the approximate number of Jews killed every single day for around five years during the Holocaust."

Films on the Holocaust have existed since World War II, first attracting wide US interest when newsreel footage of liberated death camps appeared in theaters.

Hollywood began tackling the subject in earnest with Stanley Kramer's epic "Judgment at Nuremberg" in 1961, and Steven Spielberg renewed its impact for a new generation with "Schindler's List" in 1993, earning his first Oscar for best director.

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