Center for Advanced Genocide Research to Co-Sponsor “Filming the Camps” Exhibit at LA Museum of the Holocaust
Museumgoers in Los Angeles will have the opportunity to see the traveling exhibit “Filming the Camps: From Hollywood to Nuremberg” when it comes to the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust from August 27, 2017 to April 30, 2018.
The exhibition is co-sponsored by USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research. Its curator Christian Delage will give a public talk at USC on August 31.
“Filming the Camps” explores the World War II experiences of Hollywood directors John Ford, George Stevens and Samuel Fuller. The directors each served with the U.S. Armed Forces and Secret Services, filming life on the front lines and the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps. The exhibit includes the film they shot as well as private letters and footage from their personal archives. At LAMOTH, the exhibit will also include artifacts from Samuel Fuller’s family and the 20th Century Fox archives.
The exhibit was first designed, curated and exhibited by the Memorial de la Shoah in Paris and has since traveled around the world.
Delage is a historian and filmmaker, with a focus on the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, the Nuremberg trials, and also the Khmer Rouge trials in Cambodia.
He said that his goal with this exhibit was not to overwhelm visitors with graphic footage of the concentration camps, but rather to illustrate the journey the filmmakers went on, from directing popular movies in Los Angeles and New York to witnessing atrocities in Europe during World War II.
The footage they filmed of the concentration camps is presented almost completely unedited, including the opening claps and end of the reel. Archival responses to the footage, including the filmmakers’ own written reports and comments from writers and scholars, help contextualize and rebuild the original readings of the films.
“You are not directly confronted with the liberation of the camp, but what you see is how the liberation was filmed, the day when they filmed, their comments,” Delage said. “You understand that it’s not a kind of direct account, it’s filtered for you.”
He pointed out that because the handheld 16mm cameras used by the filmmakers only held three minutes of footage on each reel, they had to choose the right moment to begin filming, whenever they thought they could get the best uninterrupted footage. Thus, they were editing as they filmed, careful to only film what they thought would be the most useful.
The camera helped to “protect” the filmmaker, to provide a separation between him and the atrocities he was there to film, which in turn mediates what viewers see as they watch the films today, Delage said.
“You don’t behave the same because you can take a certain distance while filming,” Delage said. “When the audience watches the images today, they have been protected by these cameramen who walked and filmed.”
Delage added that it was important to him as the curator to give visitors the freedom to move through the exhibit on their own, processing the images and the stories behind them at their own pace.
“It’s a journey – you have to find by yourself the best way to be involved in this space and time,” he said.