Connect with us


Berlin Flashback: Spielberg Shone a Light on ‘Last Days’ Holocaust Doc



When the documentary film The Last Days screened at the 49th Berlin International Film Festival in 1999, Steven Spielberg, its executive producer, kept a relatively low profile. Although he attended the fest in support of the project, his hope was that the film would speak for itself.

The Last Days, directed by James Moll, was produced by the Shoah Foundation, which Spielberg founded in 1994 to collect and preserve the testimony of survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust and other genocides. (In 2006, the foundation partnered with the University of Southern California and is now known as the USC Shoah Foundation.)

The film recounts the experiences of five Hungarian Jews who lived through Germany’s occupation of Hungary and the concentration camps, before then following them as they revisit their hometowns and the sites of the camps. It won an Academy Award for best feature documentary and, in 2021, was remastered and rereleased on Netflix. Prior to setting out for Berlin, Spielberg told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “I find the film both heartbreaking and hopeful. I have immense admiration for the five survivors who returned on a pilgrimage to the camps and their hometowns, who had the courage to revisit the ashes.”

He explained, though, that he planned to limit his own efforts to promote the doc so as not to draw the attention away from the survivors themselves. “The way television works, you can get 60 seconds,” he said. “If I’m there, they spend 45 seconds on me, and the survivors don’t get a chance to speak. I’ve tried hard to take a back seat.”

At this year’s festival, however, Spielberg will be front and center. The fest will screen his latest film, the autobiographical The Fabelmans, which is scheduled for release in Germany in March. And it will present him with an Honorary Golden Bear for lifetime achievement. “In a career spanning 50 years, Steven Spielberg has left a decisive and lasting imprint on the art of cinematic storytelling, while continuing to tackle sensitive subjects,” said Rainer Rother, artistic director of the Deutsche Kinemathek, in announcing the honor. “Entire generations of enthusiastic moviegoers all over the world have grown up with his oeuvre.”

Check the latest Hollywood news here.